Binge eating disorder (BED)

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Most of us overeat from time to time, and many people often feel they have eaten more than they should have. Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is different and has been recently recognised as a distinct condition within the eating disorder diagnostic manual. Binge Eating Disorder is the clinical term for compulsive overeating. Sharing some of the characteristics of Bulimia, the essential difference is that you binge uncontrollably but do not purge. These binges can be very distressing as often people feel they lose control when they bigne. This is because there is a powerful craving for food which is experienced as overwhelming which may lead to eating what most people consider an unusually large amount of food.

Binges almost always occur in secret and an appearence of 'normal' eating is often maintained in front of others. The food is eaten is usually filling and high in calories; it tends to be food that are regarded as fattening and which you may be attempting to exclude from your diet. Usually the food is eaten very quickly however it is seldom tasted or enjoyed. While there is no purging following a binge, as is seen in bulimia, there may be sporadic fasts or repetitive diets and often feelings of shame or self-hatred surface after a binge. Because of the amount of food consumed many people who experience BED may gain weight however body weight can vary from low to high. 

Binges can be triggered by any range of factors. Before a binge you may feel a build-up of tension or experience feeling unsettled; you may feel sometihng is wrong or something is bothering you . When this tension gets too much a binge may be triggered as the binge acts to release tension, reduce anxiety and cope with difficult emotions. The binge acts to blot out thinknig and feeling, or provide a distraction from problems and negative feelings. This is howevere short lived and is soon replaced with extreme guilt, shame and exhaustion.


The Diet/Binge Cycle

People with BED are often caught in a vicious cycle of dieting and bingeing. Underlying this is a profound lack of self-esteem. This leads vulnerable people to be extrememly concerned about their shape and weight, about how others view them and can drive them to go on strict diets. The dieting then encourages overeating through both physiological and psychological mechanisms. The bingeing causes guilt and to compensate, people diet again.



While it is difficult to break this cycle recovery from binge eating disorder is possible. Support is available for binge eating disorder by contacting EDANI or through the links provided below, with self-help booklet available in the EDANI offices for free. 


Useful Links

Overeaters Anonymous - Ballynafeigh Community Development Association, Belfast on Friday nights 7pm to 9pm. 

Groups run at 283 Ormeau Road, Belfast, BT7 3GG every Friday night. For directions call 02890491161



Behavioural Effects: 
  • Eating much more rapidly than usual
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantities of food consumed
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Feeling very self conscious eating in front of others
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after bingeing
  • Being unable to purge yourself or compensate for the food eaten

Eating Disorder Association NI
28 Bedford Street,
Belfast, BT2 7FE
Phone: 028 9023 5959