Signs and Symptoms of Binge Eating

What are the signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder (BED)?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a severe eating disorder that can have a hugely detrimental impact on an individual’s psychological and physical wellbeing, as well as causing a range of long-term problems. In addition, BED is a highly secretive disorder, with many sufferers feeling too embarrassed and ashamed to binge eat in front of other people. This means that BED may go unnoticed, undiagnosed and untreated for a long period of time.

The signs and symptoms of BED can be categorised into psychological, physical and behavioural/social symptoms.

Psychological symptoms of binge eating:

  • Spending a lot of time thinking about and planning when you can have your next bingeing episode
  • Feeling as though no amount of food will be able to satisfy you
  • An overwhelming feeling of guilt, shame and self-disgust after binge eating
  • Having a distorted and overly negative body image
  • Fear or embarrassment about eating fatty, sugary or other unhealthy foods in front of other people
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anger, irritability and impatience – finding that you get angry for no reason and taking this out on other people
  • Extremely low self-esteem
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Physical symptoms of BED:

  • Gaining weight as a result of your excessive eating habits
  • Lack of fitness and general ill health as a result of eating so much unhealthy food
  • Poor skin and hair due to lack of nutrients
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Tiredness and fatigue

Behavioural/social symptoms of binge eating:

  • Eating a huge amount of food in one sitting, even when you are not hungry
  • Bingeing on foods that you feel guilty about eating, such as those that have high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and salt
  • Eating lots of junk food such as crisps, chocolate and sweets
  • Feeling as though you experience a complete loss of control during your bingeing episodes, and eating in a frenzied and frantic manner
  • Binge eating until the point of physical pain, and not recognising the signs that you should stop eating
  • Binge eating alone or in secret
  • Chaotic eating habits e.g. not eating all day and then binge eating at night
  • Buying lots of food
  • Hoarding food and hiding empty food packets
  • Denying that you have a problem, both to yourself and others
  • Social withdrawal and isolation – not wanting to meet with family and friends, in order to avoid answering any questions that they might ask about your eating habits

What are the long-term effects of BED?

Without expert help, BED can result in a number of negative and enduring consequences, including:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • An increased risk of developing certain forms of cancer
  • Infertility
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Joint and back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Family breakdowns
  • Poor work performance
  • Financial difficulties due to the amount of money that is spent on food
  • Drug and alcohol addiction, as a means of helping you to cope with difficult emotions or physical complications
  • Suicidal thoughts/behaviours

Contact us

Life Works provides first rate support and guidance in the treatment binge eating. To discuss how we can help you, please call 0800 081 0700 or click here to complete a short enquiry form.

 

This page was reviewed by Steve Clarke (FdSc, MSc, NCFED) in March 2019, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in March 2021.

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