Understanding Binge Eating Disorder...continued

How serious is BED?

BED can have a very serious impact on a person’s mental and physical health and in severe cases can be life-threatening. It can lead to obesity and associated risks to cardiovascular healthCouple forming heart with hands such as heart disease, high cholesterol and stroke. It can also be a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Fertility, skin and sleep problems and irritable bowel syndrome are also common amongst sufferers.

From a mental and emotional perspective, those living with BED may suffer with anxiety, low confidence and self esteem and whilst these are issues that may contribute to developing the condition in the first place, the experience of having BED will likely compound them further.

How is BED treated?

BED is very treatable and there is a range of options available.

The treatment options chosen will vary by person depending on their particular needs and severity of the illness. Generally, however, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy are used to treat BED.

This will involve using therapy to identify the emotional causes and triggers of BED in an individual, recognising they may be different for each person, and strategies agreed on how to overcome them. Studies have shown that CBT can be effective in reducing bingeing patterns. One such study concluded that after 20 sessions of CBT, 79% of participants were no longer bingeing and 59% twelve months later.

Other treatment options include anti-depressants which are offered alongside psychological therapies and are designed to help with any associated feelings of depression, anxiety or phobias that are connected to the person’s experience of BED.

In summary

Binge Eating Disorder is a serious health condition that is estimated to affect 3.2% of the UK population aged over 16 years. This makes it the most common eating disorder in the UK, followed by OSFED (Other Specified Eating or Eating Disorders), Bulimia and Anorexia.

In reality, however, it is accepted there is likely a much greater number suffering since many do not come forward for help and treatment. Sadly there exists still a great deal of shame, embarrassment and stigma relating to eating disorders of all types, preventing some from reaching out for the help they need. In addition, until a change in NICE guidelines in 2017, many people were not offered specific treatment for BED within the NHS despite its classification as a recognised eating disorder. But please don’t let this put you off - despite a ‘slow start’ to recognise the impact of BED, there are very effective treatment options now available and accessible to all.

Young female lying on bed using mobile phoneHere to support you

We are here to support anyone experiencing any kind of eating distress or eating disorder. That means a diagnosis is not necessary to access our support services. We understand people do not fit neatly into diagnostic boxes, we all have quirks, traits and problems that make us unique after all. Most of all, we urge people to remember that eating disorders, including BED, thrive on isolation, shame and stigma. We hope anyone reading this struggling right now might be encouraged to get in touch and ask for the help they need and deserve.

Go to details of our helpline and other support services.