Binge Eating Disorder (BED), often referred to as binge eating, involves recurring episodes where an individual consumes excessive amounts of food within a short timeframe. These episodes are marked by an uncontrollable urge to eat, and the person may experience distress, shame, guilt, or regret afterwards. If you’re in Melbourne and looking to speak to a warm and compassionate psychologist about binge eating, you’re in the right spot.
What are the signs of a binge eating disorder?
How binge eating or binge eating disorder can impact you:
Body dissatisfaction: There is a lot of overlap between binge eating disorder and poor body image. Individuals with binge eating disorder often obsess about weight and describe feeling ashamed of their body after losing control around food. Often binge eating is a pattern of behaviour resulting from skipping meals and restricting food, with restriction resulting in preoccupation of restricted foods and subsequent binge eating habits.
Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem and poor body image can feel unattractive and ashamed. This may result in beliefs that they are not good enough and that they do not fit in with other people. Individuals may be bothered by their weight and size, or they may feel that they look a particular way and that people do not like this look. Low self-esteem and poor body image can lead to problems such as eating disorders, depression, and social anxiety. Individuals may start by significantly restricting food as a means to control weight. Over time this restriction can result in binge eating.
Feelings of guilt and shame: Individuals with binge eating disorder describe feeling a great deal of guilt and shame because they eat a lot of food in a short period of time. Individuals often report beliefs that they are unattractive or failures because of their eating habits. Often with BED, consumption of food in large amounts is in secret, thereby increasing the feelings of shame and guilt.
Weight fluctuations: Individuals struggling with binge eating disorder experience the cycle of eating and fasting, which can lead to weight gain and a feeling of being unable to control their bodies. Weight fluctuations can also be common in people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight.
Impacts on mood: People with binge eating may experience extreme mood swings, ranging from intense happiness and euphoria to intense sadness and depression. Individuals with shifts in their mood are more likely to binge eat. Often binge eating can be comorbidities of other mental health difficulties (including anxiety, depression, and ADHD).
Social withdrawal: Binge eating disorder and social withdrawal often occur together. Social withdrawal can occur as means to avoid social situations or interactions. This can make it challenging to maintain relationships and lead to feelings of loneliness.
Is there a relationship between binge eating and poor body image?
That is generally the case. Body image concerns and disordered eating or dieting often go hand in hand. Often, it is the early dissatisfaction with a young person’s appearance that leads them to believe that losing weight would improve body satisfaction, self-esteem, and overall life satisfaction.
Restricting certain food groups or meals as part of a diet, often used as means to control weight, will lead to an unhealthy obsessive focus on body weight and preoccupation with restricted foods. This ultimately results in episodes of compulsive overeating or binge eating.
Binge eating, however, is not exclusively intertwined with body dissatisfaction. Individuals with ADHD may encounter time blindness, often leading to irregular eating patterns and binge eating episodes. Individuals with ADHD may also find certain foods stimulate the reward pathway of the brain, often known as a ‘dopamine spike’, providing a sense of immediate gratification that reinforces the cycle of binge eating. For this reason, it is important to engage with a psychologist that has a special interest in binge eating.
What is the treatment approach for binge eating disorder?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best treatment for BED depends on the individual’s specific symptoms and circumstances. Evidence-based treatments for BED include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-E), as well as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness, as well as speaking to a dietician, and eating disorder treatment groups. Medication may sometimes be required as part of the treatment approach and directed by your GP, this is often the case when BED is severe or extremely severe or when the eating disorder has co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and ADHD.
How to choose a Melbourne eating disorder specialist?
It is important to look for an eating disorder therapist that has undergone specialist training. This might be through the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZED) as part of the Eating Disorder Credential Pathway. By engaging with a psychologist that has ongoing training in this area, you will gain confidence in your treatment approach.
1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:
2. The binge-eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.
5. The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate compensatory behaviour as in bulimia nervosa and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.
Level of Severity:
Note: Binge eating disorder is less common but much more severe than overeating. Binge eating disorder is associated with more subjective distress regarding the eating behaviour, and commonly other co-occurring psychological problems. It is important not to self-diagnose; however, if you identify with the diagnostic criteria, you would benefit from reaching out to our psychology practice.
At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, our Melbourne psychology practice comprises of highly skilled psychologists with specialist training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders (CBT-E). Our psychologists have undertaken training with ANZED and hold a special interest in the treatment of eating disorders including binge eating, as well as body dissatisfaction.
We understand it can be a long journey and stressful for the individual and their family.
At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we offer flexible appointments with our psychologists during the day, evening, or weekends, both in-person at our Melbourne psychology practice or online via telehealth.
Our team of psychologists hold full registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and adhere to ethical guidelines as mandated by the Psychologists Registration Board and Australian Psychological Society. Our clinical practice is grounded in evidence-based treatment evidence-based treatment for eating disorders including binge eating disorder and other food disorder challenges.