Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

When we think of Eating Disorders (ED), disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia and characteristics such as starvation or being skinny are likely to pop up in our minds. We often neglect disorders such as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) which are more common than we think. This disorder is marked by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame. Unlike other eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa,  BED does not include any compensatory behaviours after binging, such as purging.


What is Binge Eating?

Some common signs and symptoms of BED include:

  • Eating every few hours (e.g. 2 hours) and having more than a single serving at a time
  • No control in eating behaviours (e.g. Being unable to stop eating)
  • Eating beyond feeling full (e.g. nauseousness, faint)
  • Feeling depressed or guilty after eating
  • Feeling embarrassed to eat in front of others


Risk Factors for BED

  • Family history of BED or any other eating disorders
  • Dieting may increase the likelihood of eating disorders
  • Presence of other psychological issues (e.g. Depression and Anxiety)
  • Social/cultural factors: Bullying, sexual assault, poor diet as a child


Identifying Signs of BED in Others

  • Disappearance of a large amount of food
  • Person is concerned with weight loss and general body image
  • Person has no fixed eating schedule
  • Person has low self-esteem
  • Attempts of dieting or new dieting fads
  • Person usually eats alone or is uncomfortable eating in front of others


What Can You Do if You or Someone You Know Has BED?

BED may lead to severe health consequences (e.g. Obesity, Heart disease), hence it is important to seek professional help to treat the eating disorder. If you suspect a loved one may be struggling with BED or any other eating disorder, try to engage in an open and honest dialogue with them, and encourage them to approach a psychologist/doctor.

At home, it is also important to build a healthy sense of self-esteem for yourself and your family members. This can help enhance self-confidence and reduce the chance of body image issues. Doing your best to follow adequate meal plans with sufficient nutrients can also help develop healthy eating patterns in the household.


Treatment Methods for BED

✽   Types of Psychotherapy

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    CBT can provide individuals with coping methods to help deal with any negative thoughts of body image. It can also introduce skills to help avoid overeating.

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy

    Interpersonal psychotherapy can be useful if binge eating episodes are triggered by relationship issues. This form of therapy focuses on improving interpersonal relationships, thus avoiding the triggers of binge eating episodes and hence overeating.

  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

    DBT focuses on four components: emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and mindfulness. It makes use of the concept of dialectical abstinence to instill the idea that having relapses or slip-ups during the recovery journey are normal and inevitable. This mindset can help individuals stay on track and not fall back into old habits, even after a relapse.

✽   Medications

Anti-depressants and Topiramate, or Topamax, have been used to help reduce binge eating episodes.