What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a complex mental illness, but it is treatable and with the right treatment, recovery is possible.

There’s no “right way” to have BED, however, there are shared characteristics and behavioural patterns that help in the diagnosis of the illness.

Often, people suffering with BED eat large quantities of food – called “binging” – but typically don’t engage in compensatory behaviours such as with Bulimia.

Sufferers often feel a significant amount of shame and guilt associated with their symptoms, which traps them in the cycle of the illness.

BED is not about the food, rather, the symbolic act of binging can be understood as an attempt to negate or interrupt overwhelming negative emotions.

People often talk of entering a trance-like state when binging, or, becoming preoccupied with planning their binges as they go about their everyday lives in work or education.

Because of the secretive nature of the illness, and the fact that many people with BED maintain a “normal” weight, the illness often persists whilst someone is otherwise high-functioning in other areas of their lives.

What’s more, it is sometimes hard to distinguish between BED and overeating – as to occasionally overeat, and “comfort eat”, is normal behaviour as human beings.

That being said, if you feel as though your relationship to food and eating is significantly impacting your day-to-day life, it’s important that you reach out for specialist support with this as soon as possible.  

Common behavioural and psychological symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Eating uncontrollably (binging) and/or fear of eating uncontrollably
  • Petty theft to get hold of food to binge on
  • Secretive eating and isolation
  • Acts of self-disgust and self-harm
  • Perfectionism
  • Depression and other co-occurring conditions such as OCD
  • Low self-esteem
  • Preoccupation with body image and appearance

What causes Binge Eating Disorder? 

Like other eating disorder diagnoses, there is no one single cause. Rather, a combination of social, genetic and psychological factors that can contribute.

Respect, kindness and compassion. Every step of the way.

Orri’s approach to treating Binge Eating Disorder.

“Everyone is different and therefore everyone’s experience of an eating disorder will be different…It’s this flexibility and emphasis on collaboration that makes our approach unique.”

Often, people suffering with Binge Eating Disorder struggle to manage their emotions in a healthy and intuitive way.

As such, our multi-disciplinary team works with the individual to forge new pathways and healthy coping mechanisms, whilst addressing any co-occurring conditions which may fuel or exacerbate the eating disorder behaviours.

Like with other eating disorder diagnoses, Orri believes that recovery is possible and that treatment should heal the individual as a whole, embracing the individual’s complexity and unique history.

We heal the underlying cause by providing individuals with the tools they need to recover – recognizing that everyone is different and therefore everyone’s experience of an eating disorder will be different.

Our particular area of focus is Specialist Day Treatment through a stepped approach. By taking a stepped approach, we can provide the right level of support as individuals maintain their careers, go to school or university, and return to their lives alongside recovery. It’s this flexibility and emphasis on collaboration that makes our approach unique.

Recovery is more than just an absence of symptoms. It is a gradual process that won’t happen on any particular day but will deepen and strengthen with time. Our commitment is to the individual and their journey, as well as to the support system around them of family and carers.

How do I know when to access support for an eating disorder? Our team explains.

We’re here to support you on your journey to recovery.

You might feel as though you’ve tried every treatment in the world and want to explore something completely different.

You may have had eating disorder treatment before, or, this may be your first time reaching out.

Or, you may be unsure whether you have an eating disorder, but you are aware that there’s something not quite right about your relationship to food, eating and your body.

Our expert team understands the complexities of eating disorders. All our clinicians are specialists in eating disorders and have spent their careers working alongside people and their families so that recovery becomes possible for all.

We are here to help people overcome eating disorders and deliver the highest standard of care to individuals and their families.

More about eating disorders.


There’s no “right way” to have Bulimia, however, often, people suffering with Bulimia eat large quantities of food – called “binging” – and then purge the calories from their system.

Purging doesn’t always take the form of self-induced vomiting — a person can also rid their system of calories by fasting, exercising compulsively, or taking laxatives or diuretics.  

For people suffering Bulimia, eating becomes a means of emotional release. It provides relief in times of stress but the subsequent purging, which satisfies their overwhelming urge to remove the calories, often leaves the individual feeling guilty and ashamed. The person feels a complete loss of control and suffers a good deal of stress as a result. 

The symbolic acts of binging and purging can typically be seen in other areas of someone’s life. For instance, someone might restrict and binge on alcohol, drugs or sexual relations.

Despite this, people who suffer with Bulimia are often high-functioning individuals who maintain a weight deemed “normal” and conceal their symptoms so the illness goes undetected.  

Like other eating disorders, Bulimia can appear to be about food but is really caused by complex, underlying emotional issues that must be addressed in specialist eating disorder treatment. 

Read more here.


There is no one way to have Anorexia, but there are common behavioural patterns and emotional and cognitive characteristics that help in diagnosing the illness.

Anorexia typically involves restrictive eating; where someone limits their food intake to a dangerous and often life-threatening degree.

An irrational fear of gaining weight and distorted body image can feed into their restricted relationship to food as they attempt to maintain a low weight or strive to lose more.

Excessive exercise and binge/purge cycles – often associated with Bulimia – may also factor in someone’s Anorexia as they attempt to compensate for any food that is eaten.

Read more here.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

ARFID is a new eating disorder diagnosis referenced in the DSM-5. Previously coined “Selective Eating”, it involves limitations and/or restrictions around food, particularly around the intake of certain types of food or certain amounts.

Unlike other eating disorder diagnoses (like Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder) it doesn’t typically involve distress around body image or a pursuit of thinness. Rather, it is classified by a rejection of certain foods often due to a sensitivity in taste, texture, smell, appearance or temperature.

ARFID can severely impact someone’s physical and mental health. Someone suffering with ARFID may struggle with socialising and eating around others, and suffer from serious nutritional deficiencies, weight loss in adults and stunted growth in children.

Whilst there’s no single cause, it may be that someone had a distressing experience whilst eating food – such as choking or vomiting – that harmed their relationship to food. Recently, there has been links made with Autism due to sensory sensitivity.

Read more here.


Orthorexia is an eating disorder that is characterised by symptoms of obsessive behaviour towards food, often in pursuit of a “healthy” diet.

Those suffering with Orthorexia may be extremely selective and restrictive with their food and food types. They may categorise food as “good” or “bad” and attempt to eat only “pure” foods whilst following a seemingly “perfect” diet.

The diagnosis was first coined in 1998 and doesn’t yet have formal diagnostic criteria. As such, it can be difficult to diagnose people with Orthorexia, especially as we know there’s no “one way” to have an eating disorder.

A concern and awareness of the nutritional quality of food is taken to the extreme with Orthorexia, to the detriment of their psychological and physiological selves and often leading to isolation as people endeavour to keep up with their specific “healthy” diets and/or food rules.

Read more here.

You are not alone. It is possible to recover from Binge Eating Disorder.

We’re here, whenever you’re ready.

We accept private medical insurance. Please ask our Admissions Specialist for more details.

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