Does Binge Eating Disorder Treatment Work?

Woman with binge eating disorder seated by the river

While it is the most common eating disorder, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) was not added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a free-standing disorder until 2013.

Being the new kid on the block does not mean it should be underestimated, as BED affects 3.5% of women and 2% of men and is three times more common than both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa [1].

Even outside of the mental health realm, BED ranks as one of the most common disorders, with rates of diagnosis higher than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia [1].

With these numbers increasing every day, researchers are calling for more research to assist in finding effective treatments that reduce relapse and lead individuals to recovery.

The current treatment of choice for BED is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), “which achieves total remission of binge eating in more than 50% of patients, with broad improvements in specific eating disorder psychopathology, associated depression and psychosocial functioning [2].”

Interpersonal Psychotherapy

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is also commonly used and focuses on resolving any interpersonal problems the individual is experiencing that may be maintaining the BED behaviors [Wilson].

This treatment holds its own when compared to CBT, with one study showing IPT achieved a remission rate of 73% post-treatment compared to CBT’s 79% [2].

Woman struggling with binge eating disorder

A fairly new treatment for BED that clinicians are debating whether or not to use is Behavioral Weight Loss therapy (BWL), which is more widely available and can be generalized to numerous populations.

Similar to IPT, research indicates that CBT achieves higher remission rates than BWL post-treatment, however, at one-year follow-up; BWL’s remission rates are higher than CBT’s [2].

A recent report from researchers at Yale University School of Medicine examined these BED treatments with a critical eye to determine their effectiveness in treating both BED behavior as well as obesity.

The report notes that even the go-to treatments above could yield better results, as CBT and IPT do not lead to weight-loss and BWL, while it achieves modest weight-loss over time, has only good outcomes for individuals with BED [3].

Previous research has indicated that CBT and IPT are still scientifically proven to be the most effective treatments of choice for BED, “producing the greatest degree of remission from binge eating as well as improvement in specific eating disorder psychopathology [2].”

This recent report comes to the same conclusion but expands upon it, noting that utilizing evidence-supported psychological and behavioral treatments, such as CBT and IPT, is necessary.

The report further emphasizes the importance of following these intervention protocols faithfully to ensure effectiveness and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes [3].

There are many new and innovative treatments that could be helpful in reducing BED pathology and obesity. However, using these before they are properly tested and proven effective can reduce individual’s chances of achieving remission.

As such, clinicians should continue to properly use evidence-based approaches until research supports new or improved treatments.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] (2017). In search of effective treatment for BED. Eating Disorders Review, retrieved on 04 December 2017 from
[2] Wilson, G. T. (2011). Treatment of binge eating disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 34:4, 773-783.
[3] Grilos, C. M. (2017). Psychological and behavioral treatments for binge-eating disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 20-24.

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 January 17, 2018.
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