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Binge eating is an often misunderstood and underestimated eating disorder that affects many people's lives. It is a complex disease that requires awareness, understanding and appropriate care. Lavendla will help you get it right.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is characterised by episodes where a person eats large amounts of food in a short period of time and feels unable to control their eating. It differs from other eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia, but is equally serious.

Symptoms of binge eating

  • Eating large amounts of food without feeling physically hungry
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or depression after eating
  • Eating alone because of shame over the large amount of food
  • Loss of control over food intake during periods of binge eating.

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Causes and risk factors

Binge eating is often a way of dealing with emotional problems and stress. Factors that can contribute to binge eating include genetics, psychological factors and social influences.

Management of binge eating

  • Identifying and managing triggering emotions
  • Creating a healthy relationship with food
  • Seeking professional help from a psychologist

The psychologist’s role in treatment

A psychologist can play a crucial role in treating binge eating. Through therapy, you can explore the underlying causes of your eating disorder and develop new positive coping strategies.

Treatment methods

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Nutritional therapy

Support for loved ones

If you know someone who is struggling with binge eating, it is important to offer support and understanding. Encouraging them to seek professional help can be a first step towards recovery. As the eating disorder is often a symptom of deeper psychological problems, it is important not to focus solely on binge eating. To make an illustrative analogy, we can think of it as an extreme version of nail biting. Nail biting can be a bad habit, but it can also be a coping behavior that indicates that someone is stressed or nervous. An empathetic response to someone’s nervous nail biting is to try to ask the person what is causing their nervousness, not to tell them that they are ruining their nails or that it is disgusting. Similarly, you can approach someone’s binge eating with the understanding that it may be a symptom of them dealing with something else through the behavior.

How you can help

  • Show understanding and empathy
  • Avoid commenting on their eating behavior or weight
  • Support them in seeking professional help

Binge eating is not only a physical challenge, but also a psychological and emotional struggle. To understand this eating disorder, it is important to take a closer look at its different aspects.

Psychological aspects of binge eating

Binge eating is often linked to deeper psychological issues. Therefore, emotions such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem can underlie binge eating behavior.

Examples of emotional triggers:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem
  • Traumatic experiences like bullying

Physical consequences

Binge eating can lead to various physical health problems, such as digestive problems, weight fluctuations, i.e. irregular changes in body weight over time, and increased risk of chronic diseases such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure

Social influences

Social factors, such as body image and the stigma surrounding eating disorders, can contribute to the development of binge eating. Therefore, it is important to create a more accepting and understanding social environment.

  • Influence of the media
  • Unrealistic body ideals
  • Social media and comparison culture

The road to recovery

Dealing with binge eating requires a combination of psychological therapy, nutritional therapy and support from loved ones. Each individual’s path to recovery is unique, but it usually involves these initial steps:

  • Recognising the problem: Accepting that you have an eating disorder is the first step.
  • Seeking professional help: Therapy and counseling are crucial to recovery.
  • Building a support system: Friends and family can offer invaluable emotional support.
  • Develop healthy habits: Create a balanced relationship with food and exercise.

Binge eating is a complex disease that requires empathy, understanding and professional help. Therefore, we want to help spread awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding eating disorders. Hopefully, by doing so, we can help more people find their way to recovery.

If you or someone you know is suffering from binge eating, remember that there is help and hope. You are not alone. At Lavendla, we make the difficult easier and have made it simple to get in touch with a psychologist or therapist to talk more about your path to treatment.

12 common questions and answers about binge eating.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is an eating behavior where a person eats an unusually large amount of food over a short period of time, often to the point of feeling sick. It differs from bulimia because it is not followed by compensatory behaviors such as vomiting. However, binge eating is still a form of eating disorder.

How common is binge eating?

Research shows that binge eating is one of the most common eating disorder in Ireland. It is impossible to know the exact number of people who live with this order, as it often occurs in secret, and is not reported to healthcare organisations.

Why do I eat too much?

Overeating can be due to several factors, including emotional stress, psychological problems or as a reaction to strict diets. It is important to understand that overeating is often a negative coping mechanism.

What does it mean to have bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised by periods of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as vomiting, fasting or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain.

Why do I never feel full?

A feeling of never being full can be related to psychological factors, such as emotional emptiness, or biological factors such as hormonal imbalances.

Can binge eating lead to weight gain?

Yes, regular binge eating can lead to weight gain as the body takes in more calories than it can burn.

Is binge eating linked to mental health problems?

Binge eating can be linked to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

How do I know if I have binge eating disorder?

If you regularly eat large amounts of food and feel that you cannot control your eating behavior, it may be a sign of binge eating disorder. However, it is by contacting a doctor or psychologist that you can get a formal diagnosis.

Can binge eating be cured?

Yes, with the right treatment and support, people with binge eating disorder can learn to manage their eating behavior and develop a healthier relationship with food.

What treatment options are available for binge eating?

Treatment can include therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and support groups. It is important to find a treatment plan that suits the individual.

How can I help someone with binge eating?

Show understanding and support. Binge eating is a form of emotion management, so it is important to encourage people to seek professional help and listen without judgment.

Does binge eating affect physical health?

Yes, binge eating can lead to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

How can I deal with binge eating?

Start by seeking professional help. Learn to recognise and manage triggers and develop healthy eating habits. As our psychologists and therapists can give you an idea of how to deal with binge eating, we recommend an initial consultation when you feel ready.

Are binge eating and emotional eating the same thing?

No, but they can overlap. As emotional eating is eating in response to emotions rather than hunger, it can sometimes lead to binge eating.

Where can I find more information and support?

A psychologist or therapist can give you guidance, advice and recommendations on how to start treatment. Therefore, we recommend that you have an initial conversation with us at Lavendla about how to move towards treatment.

Is there a link between binge eating and sleep problems?

Yes, studies have shown that there may be a link between binge eating and sleep problems. Sleep deprivation can affect hunger and satiety hormones, which can lead to increased hunger and the risk of binge eating.

Can stress cause binge eating?

Stress is a common trigger for binge eating. When we are stressed, the body may look for ways to deal with the emotion, sometimes leading to binge eating as a form of emotional eating to relieve stress.

What is the difference between binge eating disorder and other eating disorders?

Binge eating disorder is different from other eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. In binge eating disorder, there are not the same weight control behaviors, such as excessive exercise or vomiting, that often occur in bulimia.

How can I prevent binge eating?

Prevention of binge eating can include establishing regular and balanced eating habits, learning to manage stress and emotions in a healthy way, and avoiding strict diets that can lead to binge eating. It is also important to build a positive body image and self-esteem.

Does exercise play a role in managing binge eating?

Yes, regular exercise can be an effective part of treating binge eating. It can help improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and help regulate the body’s hunger and satiety signals. However, it is important that exercise is balanced and not used as a way to compensate for binge eating.

Steps for management

Dealing with binge eating can involve extensive treatment, but with the right support and techniques you can start off on the right foot. That’s why we have developed a step-by-step guide on how to manage your binge eating:

Understand the nature of the problem

  • Identify behavioral patterns: Understand when and why binge eating occurs. This can include noticing emotional triggers, such as stress or anxiety.
  • Awareness of physical and psychological effects: Learn about how binge eating affects both body and mind.

Seek professional help

  • Choose the right specialist: Find a psychologist or therapist who has experience with eating disorders as they can help point you in the right direction for long-term treatment.
  • Prepare for the first meeting: Be open and honest about your challenges and goals.

Create a personalised treatment plan

  • Set concrete goals: Together with your therapist, set realistic and measurable goals for your improvement.
  • Learn coping strategies: Work with your therapist to develop strategies for dealing with triggers and difficult situations.

Improve your lifestyle

  • Balanced diet: Work with a nutritionist to create a healthy and balanced diet plan.
  • Regular exercise: Integrate physical activity into your daily routine to improve both physical and mental health.

Continuous follow-up and support

  • Regular meetings with the therapist: continued meetings to evaluate progress and adjust goals.
  • Seek support from those around you: Talk to family and friends about your challenges and ask for their support.

Learn self-esteem and self-care

  • Develop positive self-image: Work on strengthening your self-esteem and self-image.
  • Self-care techniques: Use techniques such as mindfulness and relaxation to manage stress and anxiety.

Understand that recovery takes time

  • Be patient: Understand that recovery is a process that can take time.
  • Be prepared for setbacks: Learn to deal with setbacks in a healthy way with the help of your therapist.

Remember that you are not alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength.

Lavendla does not offer full treatments for complex eating disorders, but you are always welcome to get in touch with qualified psychologists and therapists who can help you on your journey. We make the hard things easier.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.