A Therapist’s View on What Doctors Should Know about Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

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The Basics of Binge Eating Disorder

It may be shocking to learn that many medical professionals have little to no education in eating disorders. Few doctoral programs require a class in these disorders. Therefore, they are often taught at a service level as a small part of other coursework.

With Binge Eating Disorder Treatment only being added as an official eating disorder diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5) in 2013, it is likely that many medical professionals never learned about it in their studies at all.

Obviously, this is a problem if they are in a position to recognize possible BED symptoms and refer an individual to treatment.

The earlier an individual receives treatment for an eating disorder, the higher the likelihood they have of reaching long-term recovery. Therefore, recognizing these symptoms early on is key:

  • The main symptoms considered for diagnosis are:
  • Recurrent and persistent episodes of binge eating
  • Binge eating episodes are associated with one, or more, of the following:
  • Eating much more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of being embarrassed b how much one is eating
  • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
  • Marked distress after binge eating.
  • Absence of regular compensatory behaviors, such as purging

A doctor that recognizes any of these symptoms but is not trained in eating disorder treatment should immediately refer the individual to a specialist that does, just as they might if the individual showed signs of an ear or gastrointestinal disorder, etc.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment MUST be Multi-Faceted

Binge eating disorder, like most other eating disorders, is shown to be a combination of biological, psychological, and sociological.

Each of these areas must be treated in order to help an individual effectively work toward recovery.

Doctors must understand that ceasing binge eating behaviors might not be sufficient, as this does not treat the underlying cause, making the individual vulnerable to relapse or replacing the ineffective coping skill of binge eating with another unhelpful behavior.

Most Effective Therapeutic Methods Used

Woman in glasses in Binge Eating Disorder TreatmentThe most effective therapy for Binge Eating Disorder is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

An important note regarding treatment is that, regardless of the treatment type used, “the association between BED and obesity and the possible heightened risk for developing future metabolic problems highlight the need to find methods to effectively reduce weight—in addition to eliminating binge eating—in persons with BED [1].”

Studies find that CBT is “more effective for reducing binge eating and associated psychopathology” than other treatment methods such as Behavioral Weight Loss Therapy or Interpersonal Psychotherapy, although these treatment methods still show some success [1].

Doctors referring patients to specialists should consider this when referring and try to find treatment options that include these types of therapy.

The key here is that the medical and psychological community can be incredibly effective at saving lives if they work as just that, a community. No one profession can know everything, therefore, referring to those that specialize in a specific area is an important way to use the community and help others.


[1] Grilo et al. (2011). Cognitive behavioral therapy, behavioral weight loss and sequential treatment for obese patients with binge-eating disorder: a randomized control trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79:5.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC 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 Hope 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.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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 February 25, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 25, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.