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July 14, 2017

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment: Changing Patterns

Woman struggling with Binge Eating Disorder and Fertility Issues

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a relatively new diagnosis within the field of eating disorders. This was a win-win for clinicians and patients who struggle with BED, because it gave a diagnosis ability for insurance coverage to obtain treatment. Previous to the DSM-V, it was categorized under the popular EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

BED can be a deadly disorder due to the nature of the disease. This is where an individual eats large quantities of food in less than two hours, in a rapid fashion and typically in secret [1]. Individuals who binge eat do so for other reasons than being physically hungry and do not use compensating behaviors to undo the binge eating episode. Often, the individual will feel distress, guilt, shame, and embarrassment about the amount of food eaten.

How Prevalent is Binge Eating Disorder?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), a 2007 study in the U.S. asked almost 10,000 individuals numerous questions around mental health conditions and eating disorders. Results showed that 3.5 percent of females and 2 percent of males reported binge eating during their lifetime [1].

Researchers reported that this shows that BED is three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined [1]. This is scary to say the least. To curb these statistics, NEDA also found that 28% of individuals with BED are receiving treatment currently, and another 43% will get treatment at some point in their life [1].

This is encouraging because it means that more and more women and men are coming forward and asking for help with this disorder. In a society where binge eating was taboo, it is a breath of fresh air to know that individuals are feeling more able to seek treatment.

With treatment, there are a variety of therapeutic approaches, treatment levels, and clinicians to help an individual shift their behaviors and thoughts around food and emotions [2].

Most often, BED is treated on an outpatient basis and includes assessment and treatment goal planning, individual therapy, family therapy (if needed), support groups or IOP therapy groups, nutritional counseling, primary physician regular follow-ups, medication management (if needed), and educational groups or therapy around how to best support you and your recovery process.

Eating Disorder Treatment is Available

Many clinicians use a variety of treatment modalities, such as mindfulness training, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, exposure therapy for anxiety based symptoms, as well as expressive therapy, to work on changing unhealthy behaviors and patterns of thinking.

Woman in a straw hatRecovery focuses on helping the individual and their support system begin the process of recovery, understanding that it can be a challenge but worth the battle.

Treatment works to help the individual understand that the symptoms are about underlying issues, and food behaviors are the way they have expressed their pain underneath.

It is no different from other eating disorder subtypes in that it is a way to manage the pain of past experiences, or feelings of being out of control in some way in their life.

Clinicians can play a major part in the recovery process for BED [3]. As part of a multidisciplinary team, the therapist can work with the individual to identify issues, change destructive and negative thought patterns, and identify behaviors that are maintaining the disorder. Clinicians can work with the individual to focus on overall health, versus just a number on the scale.

The crucial part to therapy though is identifying the underlying issues for the individual. A nutritionist can work with you to discover unhealthy eating patterns, or food triggers. A psychiatrist and/or physician can monitor needed medications as well as overall health concerns, such as cholesterol levels or diabetes. Those with BED are at a potentially higher risk for metabolic syndrome, heart disease, hypertension, and other medical issues [4].

Regardless, a multidisciplined team of a nutritionist, physician, psychiatrist, and group therapy can all work to help the individual recover from their eating disorder.

How Am I Working Toward Recovery?

Yale researchers have developed a study scale to define food addictions [4]. When using the scale in studies, the researchers discovered that over 50 percent of participants with BED also met the criteria for a food addiction. The remaining 43 percent who did not meet the criteria for BED did meet the criteria for a food addiction. They also found that those with a food addiction had a higher rate of mood disorders [4].

Woman sitting at the beach contemplating her Binge Eating DisorderPart of the process of working through your recovery is listening to your treatment team and truly hearing what they believe your eating behaviors, ideals of body shape and weight are, and false beliefs around nutrition tend to be. It is about learning to identify and control triggers and practicing self-monitoring behaviors around eating.

Learning healthy coping skills to replace binge eating or emotional eating episodes can help you along the way. Also, realizing that change overnight is not possible is also something to keep in mind as you start your recovery. It takes time to recover. It takes time to identify your limits and challenges.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/binge-eating-disorder
[2] (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from http://bedaonline.com/
[3] (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/eating.aspx
[4] (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111412p34.shtml

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 14, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 14, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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