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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
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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
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To discuss how the Life Works team can help to support individuals and families dealing with an Eating Disorder and for further information on treatment and rehabilitation programmes, please call: 01483 745 066 or click here to make an enquiry.

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