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Binge and compulsive eating

Some people use food like a drug, and turn to the fridge when the problems start to stack.

Lots of colourful donuts

Donuts can make anyone peckish, but constantly binging might be a sign of an eating disorder.

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Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Only recently recognised as a distinct condition, binge eating disorder shares some of its characteristics with bulimia, but the essential difference is that sufferers binge uncontrollably but do not purge. It is believed that many more people suffer from BED than either anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Because of the amount of food eaten, many people with BED become obese, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Signs of binge eating

  • Eating much more rapidly than usual;
  • Eating until uncomfortably full;
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry;
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantities of food consumed;
  • Feeling out of control around food;
  • Feeling very self-conscious eating in front of others;
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after bingeing;
  • Being unable to purge yourself or compensate for the food eaten.

Compulsive Overeating

This is a variation on binge eating where sufferers eat even when they are not hungry, without having the willpower to stop. This may happen all the time or come and go in cycles. Some overeaters just nibble consistently, others binge and then starve themselves before eating again. Most compulsive eaters are overweight and have low self esteem, and use food as a comforter rather than face up to the underlying problem. Many feel guilty about their habit and aim to cover it up. Men are thought to suffer from compulsive eating more than any other eating disorder.

Treatment for these and other eating disorders begins by recognising and dealing with the problems in your life that cause you to use food as an escape.

Photo of donuts by Shutterstock.

Next Steps

  • Beat help people overcome eating disorders through helplines, online support and self-help groups. 0845 634 7650
  • Men get eating disorders too (MGEDT) run discussion boards for men with eating disorders where you can get peer support.
  • Visit Madly in Love to discuss mental health and relationships, share stories and get support and advice.
    • Got a question about friends, dating, love or family life? Ask one of our trained advisors. This service is free and totally confidential.
    • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
    • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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