Binge eating disorder - Eating Disorders Victoria
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Binge eating disorder

Home ~ Eating disorders A-Z ~ Binge eating disorder

This page talks about binge eating disorder and provides information on warning signs, the physical effects, and treatment and recovery options.

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is a psychological illness characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry.

Binges represent a distraction that allows a person to avoid thinking about the real root of their problems. Feelings of guilt, disgust and depression often follow a bingeing episode. Binge eating disorder is not the same as overeating, as it is recurrent and more serious.

Binge eating disorder is similar to — but not the same — as bulimia nervosa. Where people experiencing bulimia nervosa will partake in purging activities after bingeing (such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising and/or the misuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics), binge eating disorder is characterised by an absence of purging, despite experiencing similar feelings of intense guilt, shame and self-hatred after binges.

While a lack of purging is evident, a person experiencing binge eating disorder will often participate in sporadic fasts and repetitive diets in response to the negative feelings that follow a binge episode.

Binge eating disorder can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. In fact, research suggests equal percentages of males and females experience binge eating disorder.

Did you know?

Binge eating disorder is the most common of all eating disorders. It is estimated that it affects 47% of Australians with an eating disorder.

Warning signs of binge eating disorder

Some of the more common signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder are:

  • An overwhelming sense of lack of control regarding eating behaviour
  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating whereby a person may consume many thousands of calories, often to the point of feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating when not physically hungry
  • Repeated episodes of binge eating, which often results in feelings of shame or guilt
  • Eating in secret
  • Avoiding social situations, particularly those involving food
  • Eating ‘normal’ quantities in social settings, and bingeing when alone
  • Low self-esteem and embarrassment over physical appearance
  • Feeling extremely distressed, upset and anxious during and after a binge episode
  • Fear of the disapproval of others
  • Self-harm or suicide attempts
  • Overly sensitive to references about weight or appearance
  • Guilt, self-disgust
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Need to have a chat?

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you love, our team at the EDV Hub are here to help.

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Physical signs and effects of binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder affects the mind and body in a multitude of ways:

  • Brain – preoccupation with food and weight, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression
  • Mouth – erosion of dental enamel, swollen jaw, bad breath, gum disease, tooth decay
  • Throat/oesophagus – chronic sore throat, indigestion, heartburn, reflux, inflamed or rupture of oesophagus
  • Heart – irregular or slow heartbeat, cardiac arrest, heart failure, low blood pressure, fainting, dizziness
  • Stomach and intestines – ulcers, pain, stomach rupture, bowel problems, constipation, diarrhoea, cramps
  • Hormones – irregular or absent periods, loss of libido, infertility
  • Kidneys – dehydration
  • Skin – calluses on knuckles, dry skin
  • Muscles – fatigue, cramps caused by electrolyte imbalance, tiredness, lethargy

Find out more about binge eating disorder

Recovery and treatment

Binge eating disorder has only recently been given an individual definition, previously falling under the umbrella of “other eating disorders”. However, like all eating disorders, it should be taken seriously and treated with the help of a GP or psychologist.

While many people associate eating disorders with losing weight, people with binge eating disorder may experience weight gain as a result of binges. This does not mean you shouldn’t seek treatment — remember, people of all sizes, shapes and appearances can have an eating disorder and treatment will help you to address the core reasons why the binging takes place.

Eating Disorders Victoria has put together a step-by-step guide take if you are concerned that you may be experiencing binge eating disorder. It also covers how to talk to family or friends about what you’re going through. Remember that you have the best chance of success if you include people you trust on your journey.

Visit my recovery journey
RECOVERY STORIES

Putting binge eating behind me

"The binge itself, followed by the preoccupation with shame, guilt and planning the next diet, managed to distract me from avoiding my uncomfortable emotions for about 15 years. I was stunned at how obvious it all was!”

Read Carol's story
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