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Binge eating disorder affects both women and men of all ages including children, adolescents, and adults. It affects people of all races, levels of education and socio-economic groups. Binge eating is the most common eating disorder in adults.

Binge eating disorder, an eating disorder officially recognized only in 2013, is characterized by repeated episodes of overeating followed by feelings of anguish, misery, guilt and sadness — yet people with binge eating disorder are unable to control the urge to overeat. Around 3.5 percent of women, two percent of men, and up to 40 percent of people trying to lose weight suffer from binge eating disorder, making the disorder more common than bulimia and anorexia combined [12, 3]

Individuals with binge eating disorder also tend to suffer from underlying emotional and psychological distress [4].

Binge eating disorder is, in short, something that can take over your life. You can, however, overcome it with the right binge eating disorder treatment

The Effects Of Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating disorder overeat to feel better, but they have a lower quality of life and state of well-being compared to overweight people without BED. [5]

Research also shows that eating disorders are connected to female infertility. Despite research linking infertility and reproductive health issues to eating disorders, a study showed [6] that women who experienced eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors in early life were more likely to have three or more children.

Causes Of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is believed to develop as the result of a combination of psychological factors, with stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem all playing roles. A lot of studies show that there is a directly proportional relationship between negative mood states and binge eating habits and that binge eating increases with negative mood [7].

It is best to seek treatment before binge eating gets to an extreme, as the outcome of binge eating disorder treatment will be more positive the earlier you get help. 

Psychotherapeutic Treatments For Binge Eating Disorder

Guided self-help cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of therapy that combines self-help materials such as books, online materials, and CDs, with occasional therapy sessions, is the most commonly used treatment for binge eating disorder, and it can be highly effective for people suffering from mild binge eating. Interpersonal therapy, a treatment that focuses on addressing underlying challenges in your most important relationships, is recommended for people with severe binge eating disorder and poor self-image. [8]

Both interpersonal therapy and self-help cognitive behavioral therapy are more efficient treatments for binge eating disorder than behavioral weight loss therapy, a treatment that focuses on changing eating behaviors and losing weight, but BWL can play an important role in binge eating disorder treatment as well [8, 9].

Mindfulness training, during which you learn to focus on all aspects of the here and now, can positively impact your eating behaviors and mental state as well. [10]  

A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which you address the underlying thought patterns that affect your behavior, and behavioral weight loss therapy, in which you learn to adopt behaviors that help you lose weight, is another possible approach to binge eating disorder treatment. [1112]

Behavioral weight loss therapy can also be a stand-alone binge eating disorder treatment in people with mild binge eating disorder. BWL constantly produces short-term weight loss but there is less evidence of the lasting weight loss effects. [13]

The multimodal treatment model, based on the belief that eating disorders do not have one particular cause or a predictable pathway, begins with dieting and controlled eating behavior. [14]  A treatment strategy is usually developed after watching how patients perform during hospitalization, day programs, or rigorous outpatient and group therapies.

Dialectical behavioral therapy, a type of therapy that grew from CBT, is another a possible binge eating disorder therapy, but supplementary research is essential to determine its long-term effect. [15]

Medical Treatment Of Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate or LDX) was approved as the first medication for binge eating disorder. The medication is already used for ADHD. It was approved as a treatment for binge eating disorder after five studies that showed that Vyvanse reduces symptoms. [16] A significant conflict of interest in these five studies was that they were all sponsored by Shire, Inc, the manufacturer of the drug that treats binge eating disorder.

The medication also leads to side effects in around 10 percent of those who take it:

  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Minimal increase in pulse
  • Minor boost in blood pressure

The drug is recommended as part of a multi-disciplinary treatment strategy rather than a stand-alone treatment for binge eating disorder. It is usually used together with cognitive behavioral therapy and dietary guidance with an eating plan for recovering binge eaters from a dietitian. Further research is ongoing to determine the drug's long-term efficacy and safety.


In addition to home treatments for binge eating disorder the two best psychological therapies for BED are CBT and IPT. They are recommended especially for overweight patients with the full range of binge eating disorder symptoms. They additionally improve the psychopathology of other eating disorders and related general psychopathology like depression. [13]

However, cognitive behavioral therapy is the best established and preferred treatment for binge eating disorder because:

  • It is cost-effective, focus-driven and involves a brief process.
  • It is carried out through a pre-planned structure which makes it easier to deliver and disseminate than the other comparatively longer therapies with multiple components.
  • It can be provided by a lot of psychotherapists; the more complicated and time-consuming therapies require more clinical expertise.

Pharmacological treatment plays a significant role in the treatment of binge eating disorder, but data is still limited to small sample studies with a short period of follow-ups. Bariatric surgery, which is frequently recommended for overweight patients, may also help patients with binge eating disorder but additional research is required to confirm the efficacy.

A combination of various treatment options concurrently does not show any significant improvement but developing chronological treatments, with more precise treatments for non-responders appears to yield much fruit. [17]

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