How To Overcome Binge Eating Disorder: 6 Ways People Get Help

Reviewed by Heather Cashell, LCSW

Published 06/27/2022

Binge eating disorder (BED) involves using food to cope with emotional distress. A person with BED may consume a large amount of food quickly, even if they don't have an appetite. A person may experience emotional stress that triggers their binging. It may provide a sense of relief, along with shame afterward. People with BED may have a mental health concern such as anxiety or depression that is unaddressed. There are eating disorder treatment options for people with BED that include various options based on the severity of their situation.

BED Symptoms And Causes

A person with BED may eat a large amount of food in a short time, whether they are hungry or not. Certain situations that bring difficult or painful emotions trigger the impulse to binge on food. A person may feel like they lost control of themselves after they binge. A person with BED may show symptoms such as:

  • Eating food faster than normal
  • Consuming more food than normal
  • Eating a lot of food without having an appetite
  • Eating food alone because they feel shameful or embarrassed
  • Feel guilty or self-disgust

BED people may feel unhappy about themselves and obsess over personal details about themselves, such as weight, body type, and eating habits. A person with BED has uncontrolled, repeated episodes of binging that occur in a short time.

Causes behind BED may include different risk factors such as genetics, personal body image, and previous experiences with emotional trauma. Some researchers think changes in the brain, gender, and body size may also contribute to an increased risk of developing BED. Some studies also suggest that people with mental health conditions such as depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other psychological disorders may be at risk.

Treatment Options

Binge eating help includes various options, such as talk therapy, medication, and self-care strategies. A treatment plan is created based on your diagnosis and personal needs. Many options are known for treating different disorders while providing personalized guidance. The severity of your condition and the personal goals you want to achieve also play a role in developing a treatment plan. Some areas of treatment may target specific problems. It may include working one-on-one with a therapist or engage in support through a peer group setting. A person may need only one form of therapy, but your doctor or mental health specialist will help determine what is best for your needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

As a standard therapy method, it helps patients understand their relationship with their body, how they eat, and their weight. A therapy plan is created based on learning patterns associated with their thoughts and behaviors. Patients have strategies developed by the therapist to change their habits. The strategies help patients set goals, achieve healthy eating behaviors, learn self-monitoring skills, and other aspects of self-control. CBT is one of the most effective therapy options that has helped people change their habits and overcome binge eating in a year.

One element of CBT that helps people achieve success is allowing patients to take charge of their actions through guidance. It follows a self-help format that lets patients set the tone for completing necessary steps. It may include attending meetings with the therapist while getting help in achieving their goals. The self-help aspect is available in different forms, including digital apps, websites, and in-person with a local therapist. CBT's overall idea is to help patients identify negative thought patterns related to binging and use personalized strategies to improve behaviors.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT focuses on how the patient uses binging to help them cope with unwanted feelings. Such feelings may be associated with life changes, grief, social problems, relationship problems, etc. The overall idea is to understand the problem linked to the eating disorder and confront it. Once it is acknowledged, the negative behavior is remedied by making detailed life changes that occur over an extended period of several weeks to months.

People participating in IPT may work with the therapist individually or work in a group setting with peers. Studies have shown IPT helps reduce the effects of binging with short- and long-term results. IPT has long term effects that may work as well as CBT.  People with low self-esteem and severe eating disorders may benefit from this therapy.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT provides support by helping people understand how to cope when they think they don't have a way to do so. It helps people deal with negative experiences that lead to emotional reactions. DBT helps people learn how to regulate their emotions to deal with negative circumstances part of daily living that influences their binging.  Patients get help with areas such as distress tolerance, mindfulness, and emotion regulation.  While it is an option people found helpful,more research is needed to understand its effectiveness compared to other therapy options such as CBT and IPT. Research is also needed to understand the long-term effects and benefits.

Weight Loss Therapy

People with concerns about their weight may benefit from weight loss therapy. Also known as behavioral weight loss therapy, people learn how to lose weight safely while improving their body image and self-esteem. The therapy encourages participants to make lifestyle changes to promote healthy living habits like exercise and a healthy diet. People who participate learn how to monitor their thoughts and food intake during the day.

Some may not think about behavioral weight loss therapy when considering how to stop binge eating, but it may benefit some people in certain situations. Weight loss goals are achieved per personal goals. People considered obese might benefit from this therapy while reducing their risk of binging or stopping it altogether. In some cases, people may achieve moderate or short-term weight loss, but it is considered another option when they didn't see results from other therapy types.

Antidepressants

Help with binge eating may include using prescribed medicines along with talk therapy. Some may not think about using an antidepressant when they want to know how to stop binging, but it may benefit people with mood or thyroid concerns related to mental health concerns like depression. There are medications providing results for people with binging problems. In some cases, they help people achieve the goal of stopping faster than therapy. Unfortunately, medication alone is not as effective in treating such disorders as behavioral therapy.

Medications have helped reduce thoughts related to compulsions, depression, obsessions, and help reduce appetite. Studies are still ongoing to learn more about medicine effectiveness, despite promising evidence. Studies conducted so far were completed over a short-term period, so more is needed to understand if there are long-term benefits.Patients need to understand the side effects of using medications for their disorder. Common side effects include headaches and upset stomachs, but they will vary depending on the medication.

Medication may provide short-term relief for binging, while more studies are needed to learn potential long-term effects.

Self-Help Strategies

Using self-help strategies may provide different results when combined with therapy and medication. Patients often need medical professionals' assistance, such as their primary doctor or mental health professional, when dealing with binging. When considering self-help strategies, consider personal goals and changes necessary to your lifestyle routine. Here are some examples of strategies people use to help them overcome binging:

  • Journaling. Keeping a diary about foods you eat and your moods help identify triggers, control impulses and enable you to see what works when dealing with your emotions.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Options such as mindfulness may help with self-awareness of triggers while practicing self-acceptance and self-control.
  • Talk about your feelings with someone you trust. When you have something to talk about, such as getting feelings off your chest, or when you need encouragement, having a support system such as family, friends, or a support group for binging is significant.
  • Make healthy, eating choices. Now is the time to get rid of unhealthy food options and focus on having a better diet. Consider foods high in nutrients while satisfying hunger. Learn about healthy fats and proteins to incorporate into your meals.
  • Make exercise a habit. Regular exercise may help with boosting your mood, ease anxiety, and improve body image. For people looking to lose weight, it may help with meeting weight loss goals.
  • Get plenty of rest. Some people eat more when they lack natural energy or lack enough sleep. Adults should get between seven and eight hours of rest each night.

Other Suggestions To Consider

When BED is left untreated, it may lead to serious consequences and significant effects on personal health. Learn other ways to help binging through local mental health community centers or an eating recovery center. Some provide local support group information. The National Eating Disorder Association provides additional resources for people seeking more information about binge eating and various types of disorders, including bulimia and anorexia. Such resources may provide tools and other support types to determine the best option for overcoming your disorder.