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Binge Eating Disorder

What Is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is driven by cycles of dietary restriction and deprivation, along with complex social and emotional factors, affecting people of all races and genders. During episodes of binge eating, individuals experience a sense of loss of control over their eating followed by feelings of guilt and shame. These eating patterns provide short-term relief from painful emotions but, eventually, the emotions return — often more intensely. It is common for those who have a diagnosis of BED to also experience co-occurring psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use.

Binge Eating Disorder Warning Signs

Binge eating disorder can have serious medical consequences including gastrointestinal issues, chemical imbalance and an overall loss of energy and vitality.

Key signs you or someone you know may be struggling with BED include:

  • Consume large quantities of food when not physically hungry
  • Fear of eating in public or around others
  • Loss of control overeating and eating until uncomfortably full
  • Rapid consumption of food
  • Feelings of guilt or shame regarding eating

Is it Really Binge Eating Disorder?

We live in a culture with rigid ideals about food, weight and size, so it can be difficult to recognize when your thoughts and behaviors have become dangerous. Take a quiz and find out.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment & Levels of Care

Achieving long-term recovery from binge eating disorder is about more than just helping a person stop the binge eating cycle. Treatment paths focus on identifying the emotional core of the disorder and building emotional tolerance to help the individual remove their dependence on the eating disorder to cope. 

Everything starts with finding the treatment approach that best matches your or your loved ones’ needs. Here are the most common options for binge eating disorder.

Residential Treatment
Continuous in-person treatment. Often the most structured and intensive level of care.

Day Treatment
Comprehensive and consistent outpatient care with daily, in-person meetings.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP)
Intensive structure and treatment plans with consistent meetings several days per week.

Outpatient Services
Weekly structure and steady support, but provided at a slower pace than IOP.

Virtual Treatment
The same structured, intensive care of in-person, delivered virtually.

How to Help Someone with Binge Eating Disorder

Individuals suffering from binge eating disorder deserve caring and professional evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. Parents, family or friends—working closely with a mental health team—can play an active role in starting the recovery journey and restoring healthy eating. Explore our library of dedicated resources, podcast episodes, and blogs on eating disorder topics.

Reach out to a Renfrew Program Information Specialist to schedule a FREE assessment or to learn more about our services.

Thinking About Treatment?

Binge Eating Disorder FAQ

What is Renfrew’s treatment approach for binge eating disorder?

The Renfrew Center provides treatment for binge eating disorder through a multidisciplinary team of therapists, dietitians, medical providers, and psychiatrists. The Renfrew Center Unified Treatment Model for Eating Disorders is a transdiagnostic, evidenced-based treatment approach used to treat binge eating disorder by harnessing the healing power of relational connection and targeting the core mechanisms that maintain eating disorders and co-occurring emotional disorders.

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterized by cycles of restriction and binge eating episodes. Symptoms of binge eating disorder include eating large amounts of food in a discrete period of time. This diagnosis may also include certain experiences such as eating rapidly, eating past fullness, eating to the point of discomfort, eating when not hungry and eating alone. People with binge eating disorder report feeling a loss of control when eating and intense distress about their condition. This distress may involve feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.

How common is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. The prevalence rate of binge eating disorder is estimated to be 1.7% in males and 2.7% among females. Binge eating disorder occurs worldwide in people of all ages, genders, sexualities, races, and ethnicities regardless of body size or socioeconomic status.

What causes binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a complex mental health condition with no one identifiable cause. Instead, it seems to be triggered on by an interaction between genetics and various environmental risk factors, including cultural, nutritional, biological, social, and psychological factors. Research suggests that weight-based stigmatization is a significant risk factor for binge eating and binge eating disorder.

What are the most common signs for binge eating disorder?

Eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, eating rapidly, eating in isolation or secrecy, limiting or not eating (restricting) before and/or after a binge eating episode, fear of weight gain, negative body image and feelings of guilt, shame, and depression.

How do I know if I need treatment for binge eating disorder?

Ideally, binge eating disorder is both detected and treated as early as possible. Treatment for binge eating disorder is recommended when it interferes with your quality of life. Binge eating disorder can seriously impact your life across various domains including your medical and mental health, your relationships as well as your and work and school performance. If any of these areas of your life are impacted, seek support.

What should I do if I’m curious about treatment?

Research your options. Review websites and social media accounts of treatment centers to get a feel for the treatment approach to make sure it is a good fit. Discuss with your support system including your outpatient providers if you have them. Submit inquiries to treatment centers you would like to connect with and schedule an assessment. Our Program Information Specialists offer confidential phone calls to provide education about our services, answer your questions and address your concerns: Call 1-800-RENFREW (736-3739).

What forms of treatment are most effective for binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a complex psychiatric disorder that rarely travels alone. An effective treatment approach will ideally include a multidisciplinary team that works together to target multiple factors, including the eating disorder symptoms, nutritional deficiencies, medical complications, and any co-occurring mental health diagnoses. A comprehensive eating disorder assessment is recommended to identify your needs and choose the appropriate level of care.

What is the role of a treatment team in binge eating disorder recovery?

The treatment team supports and collaborates with each client, assesses the severity of the eating disorder symptoms, and monitors progress in the recovery process. They make recommendations and provide individualized treatment interventions to meet their client’s psychological, medical, and nutritional needs. Support systems and outpatient providers might also be part of the treatment team to promote sustainable change outside of the treatment setting.

What is the long-term outlook for someone with binge eating disorder?

Early intervention and the appropriate level of care can make a significant difference in the long-term recovery of those with binge eating disorder. Due to the complex nature of the disorder, it will not likely resolve on its own or with time. Seeking out the appropriate level of care as soon as possible is recommended for best outcomes.

What should parents do to help?

We recommend that parents educate themselves on binge eating disorder and seek guidance from professionals when possible. It is important to note that binge eating disorder is not about willpower and its symptoms are usually worsened through dieting and the intentional pursuit of weight loss. Do not blame your child for their symptoms; binge eating disorder is a psychiatric condition that can cause serious medical and psychological complications when left untreated. Parents should approach their loved one with compassion and concern and take steps to involve professionals, including a physician as soon as possible.

Reach Out to Us

Call 1-800-RENFREW (736-3739)

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