How You Can Overcome Binge Eating Disorder

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated June 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Despite what people may observe on the surface, eating disorders tend to be about more than food alone, but what are eating disorders? Those without eating disorders tend to eat when they feel hungry and, on occasion, even when they’re not. While some people may overeat from time to time, binge eating disorder is a unique condition that can lead to excessive, seemingly uncontrollable overeating on a regular basis. 

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by consuming an excessive amount of food in a short period, often until feeling uncomfortably full, without the compensatory purging behaviors seen in bulimia nervosa. 

Although an individual may feel bad both before and after a binge, they may continue to engage in the behavior. In this way, the binging can grow out of their control and no longer feel like a choice. 

Below, we’ll explore common symptoms of binge eating disorder and how you can overcome its effects.

Need help overcoming binge eating disorder?

What is binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder in which someone frequently eats large amounts of food at a time. It is considered one of the most common eating disorders and can affect individuals from all backgrounds, ages, and genders. Those who have binge eating disorder often feel out of control when they take in excessive amounts of food and usually feel sad and ashamed of their behavior after they have engaged in it. BED is a serious mental health condition, but it can be overcome with the right tools and support.

People with binge eating disorder are at increased risk for long-term health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Symptoms of binge eating include eating rapidly, eating alone due to embarrassment, and experiencing distress about the binge episodes, highlighting the importance of early intervention and treatment.

Overcoming binge eating disorder

Eating disorders can be overcome much like many other mental illnesses, but they also can be more complex to treat in some cases. There may be an underlying physical or mental health condition to address, such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, and chronic pain. These problems can have a significant impact on an individual’s overall state of mind, causing them to engage in binging to cope with some of the negative emotions that they may be feeling. In addition, one’s relationship with food often needs to be repaired in order to heal binge eating disorder. Although the food itself is normally not the cause of an eating disorder, it can still be necessary to heal any unhelpful perspectives a person has about food.

Generally, treatment for binge eating disorder includes a combination of medication and therapy. Medication can alter moods, while therapy can often equip a person with coping mechanisms to navigate the strong emotions they’re feeling. It may also be helpful to build up your self-esteem and confidence to feel more positive about yourself as you move forward with treatment for binge eating disorder. A mental health professional, especially an eating disorder counselor, may assist you in healing psychologically and physically so that you can feel more positive.

The symptoms of binge eating disorder

Eating disorders typically have both mental and physical symptoms. The symptoms associated with binge eating disorder may include:

  • Feeling out of control when consuming large quantities of food

  • Consuming far more food than the average person would, with binging behavior at least once a week for at least three months

Additionally, individuals usually have to experience at least three of the following symptoms in order to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder:

  • Eating more quickly than normal

  • Engaging in binging behavior despite not feeling hungry

  • Refusing to eat with others because they’re embarrassed about the amount of food they’re eating

  • Experiencing feelings of shame, depression, or disgust after binging on food

  • Eating until feeling full to the point of discomfort

  • Feeling distressed after binging

Additionally, binge eating disorder may have some symptoms that are similar to those of other eating disorders, but they tend to present differently. For example, those who experience bulimia nervosa may engage in binging behavior, similar to people with binge eating disorder. However, once they realize that they have overeaten, they typically attempt to expel it from their body through vomiting or laxative misuse. Individuals who live with binge eating disorder do not usually attempt to physically purge the food from their bodies.


Warning signs of binge eating disorder

Being able to identify certain behaviors that indicate binge eating disorder may help you become more aware of it and even break free from it. Some of the warning signs to watch out for (or ask others about) include:

  • Empty containers and food wrappers, which may be evidence of a significant decrease in food supplies in the home

  • Fear of eating with others or discomfort when eating with others

  • A habit of stealing or hoarding food

  • A schedule built around binging sessions or rituals

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities, either to binge or because of concerns with self-perception and mood

  • A tendency to try out various diets (often returning to binging behavior and trying out a new diet later on)

  • Obsession with body and weight (this can be common for many people with eating disorders)

  • Erratic eating behaviors, including skipping meals, not eating on a schedule, and replacing meals with snacks

  • A tendency to eat large amounts of food secretly

  • Frequent changes with weight gain and weight loss

  • Difficulty with focus and concentration

  • Gastrointestinal problems

Certain behaviors may not be easy to recognize, especially in ourselves. If you believe you may be experiencing a binge eating disorder, you might consider asking a trusted friend and family member if they have noticed certain behaviors on this list. If you feel uncomfortable opening up to friends or family, you may be able to confide in a counselor or medical professional who can listen without judgment and offer guidance on a path forward. Many licensed therapists have experience helping people with eating disorders and binge eating disorder in particular.

Binge eating disorder impact

At first glance, binge eating disorder may not seem worrisome. However, there are potential consequences that can be concerning. People with binge eating disorder can experience several health problems, such as:

  • High cholesterol

  • Diabetes

  • Increased risk of some forms of cancer

  • Heart disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Gallbladder disease

Although this is not an exhaustive list of potential health complications that people with binge eating disorder may experience, it offers a glimpse into how impactful this disorder can be. These health problems can develop over time. Although you might feel relatively healthy now, little impacts can add up over time and become larger concerns. However, there is help available through numerous outlets. 

Online therapy for binge eating disorder

You don’t have to confront an eating disorder all on your own. You may recover with more ease and less discomfort when working with a professional counselor. If it feels daunting to discuss an eating disorder and body image at a therapist’s office, you might consider speaking with an online therapist. Research has shown that teletherapy via phone or videoconference is effective for eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and substance use.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

One study published in 2022 evaluated the effectiveness of a web-based intervention in overcoming the treatment gap for patients with binge eating disorder (BED). The intervention was based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which the American Psychiatric Association states is the most effective treatment for BED. Researchers concluded that when these online-based programs are successfully integrated into standard care, they have “the potential to alleviate the high burden of BED for individuals, their families, and society.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Need help overcoming binge eating disorder?


Overcoming an eating disorder can take time, patience, and self-compassion. Learning to change habits you’ve leaned on for a while can be challenging, but you don’t have to face these challenges alone. There are numerous resources available to offer you support, including online therapy. While it may be hard to speak about what you’re going through, online counseling can provide you with a safe space where you can be transparent, feel heard, and promote better physical and mental health. BetterHelp has a network of more than 25,000 licensed therapists, and you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people overcome binge eating disorder. Take the first step toward healing from BED and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Binge eating disorder can be a difficult disorder to deal with. However, wherever you may be in your journey, it is certainly not something that you have to deal with alone. If you believe that binge eating disorder or other types of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, may be impacting your life, the information above will provide you with a clearer picture of what this disorder looks like, how it is affecting you, and what you can do to begin receiving treatment for it.

Healing from eating disorders is possible
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