Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Overeating Treatment

Binge eating disorder (BED), which is also referred to as ‘compulsive eating disorder’ or ‘emotional eating’, has recently been formally recognised as an eating disorder. BED is characterised by individuals regularly eating huge amounts of food in one sitting (known as ‘binge eating’), even if they aren’t hungry. However, unlike other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, people with BED don’t engage in any purging behaviours to try to counteract the food that they have consumed. This means that the constant overeating that is associated with BED is likely to result in life-altering physical issues such as obesity, diabetes and other complications. A person with BED typically turns to food to deal with stress and other difficult emotions. As a result, these emotions build up and often become worse, spiralling into guilt, depression and low self-esteem. This can then cause what feels like a ‘vicious circle’, leading to more emotional eating and a worsening mental state.

People with BED tend to go to extreme lengths to hide their binge eating behaviour, which can mean that it is a very secretive and isolating disorder. However, BED is treatable and you don’t have to struggle on your own. Our expert team, consisting of psychiatrists, therapists, a nutritionist and a dietitian, are dedicated to helping you every step of the way towards addressing the underlying causes for your binge eating behaviours, learning healthy coping strategies and making a full and sustainable recovery.

Our eating disorder specialists have extensive experience in treating BED and are able to deliver a wide range of tried and tested interventions in order to reduce the symptoms of BED. Because eating disorders are unique to each individual, we ensure that all of our treatment is personalised according to our clients’ needs and requirements. We place you at the centre of your treatment and recovery journey, enabling you to overcome your eating disorder and work towards the healthy and productive life that you deserve.

At Life Works, we understand it can be daunting and overwhelming to acknowledge that you have a problem with binge eating, and the shame that surrounds this illness can often make people hesitant to reach out. This is why we aim to make this process as straightforward as possible by offering a free eating disorder assessment to all prospective clients. During this, you will receive dietetic, therapeutic and GP assessments, in order to review your suitability for the eating disorder programme. The free assessment also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions that you may have about the treatment process and develop a better understanding of the journey that you could be taking towards recovery.

Life Works offers a friendly, supportive and highly compassionate environment in which to receive expert eating disorder treatment and our beautiful and homely rehab centre provides the perfect setting in which to relax and focus on your wellbeing.

Treatment for BED at Life Works

The goal of BED treatment at Life Works is to help you to address the underlying causes and triggers for your unhealthy bingeing behaviours, learn effective coping mechanisms and take steps towards a happy, fulfilling, BED-free life.

Treatment and counselling for BED

Treatment for BED at Life Works consists of a wide range of established techniques. These include:

  • A variety of practical dietetic techniques, designed to help to gradually expose you to the concepts of healthy eating, diet and nutrition. These include:
    • Personalised meal plans
    • Weekly shopping groups
    • Weekly cooking groups
    • Weekly psycho-educational groups, specific to eating disorders
  • A range of therapeutic approaches which are specific to eating disorder clients:
    • Body image/acceptance groups
    • Dance and movement groups
    • Understanding emotions groups
    • Relapse prevention groups
    • Meal and post-meal support, with input from the full multidisciplinary team
  • Other therapeutic interventions which can be used for both eating disorder and addiction clients:
    • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) informed groups
    • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) informed groups
    • Art informed therapy
    • Shiatsu
    • Mindfulness
    • Drama therapy

We are able to deliver expert treatment for BED in a number of different formats, including group therapy, one-to-one therapy and family therapy. We also offer a variety of treatment options ranging from highly structured inpatient treatment, through to day care and outpatient treatment. The format and type of treatment that you receive at Life Works is personalised according to your individual needs and the intensity of the support that you require for your BED. You can read more about these different treatment options on our approach to eating disorder treatment page. In addition, we provide access to ongoing aftercare support for clients who stay with us for 28 days or more.

We also recognise that BED can have a negative effect on the lives of your friends and family, as well as your own health and wellbeing. As such, Life Works is pleased to offer a high quality family programme to our clients, involving your family and significant others within your treatment journey, and enabling them to develop a better understanding of your illness. Our family programme provides support, guidance and education on this destructive disorder and helps you to decide how you can best support each other moving forwards.

What is BED?

BED is a complex eating disorder which causes individuals to develop a compulsive relationship with food. BED is characterised by frequent episodes of binge eating, which involves the sufferer eating a huge amount of food in one sitting, in a frenzied and uncontrolled manner. Binge eating happens even when the individual isn’t hungry and they often eat until they go beyond the point of being comfortably full. However, unlike anorexia and bulimia, BED is not associated with purging behaviours such as self-induced vomiting or abusing laxatives and therefore, this condition can lead individuals to become obese or suffer from other chronic health conditions. For most people who struggle with BED, binge eating is used as a coping mechanism in order to deal with underlying emotions or mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or stress. However, the nature of binge eating means that sufferers often feel guilty, disgusted and ashamed with themselves following a bingeing episode, which can lead to further binge eating in order to cope with these additional negative emotions.

In addition, people with BED tend to only binge eat in private which can mean that the behaviours that are linked to this condition can often be difficult to identify. As an example, many binge eaters may appear to eat a ‘normal’ amount of food during the day in front of other people, and then binge eat later at night when they’re on their own at home. Therefore, even if these individuals do become overweight, other people may not be able to see a reason for why this might be the case.

Unlike anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, BED tends to affects both men and women equally and research suggests that this condition is more common in adults between the ages of 20 and 40.

What are the most common symptoms of BED?

Binge eating is associated with a wide variety of symptoms, which can vary from person to person, and can ultimately have a profoundly negative impact on your physical and psychological health. The most common symptoms of BED to look out for include:

  • Eating lots of junk food such as crisps and chocolate
  • Binge eating even when you are not hungry
  • Eating until you are uncomfortably full
  • Eating to the point of physical pain
  • Chaotic eating habits e.g. not eating all day and then binge eating at night
  • Eating in private due to embarrassment about how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty after binge eating
  • Lack of fitness and general ill health as a result of your unhealthy diet
  • Bad skin and hair due to lack of nutrients
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social isolation

More detailed information on the symptoms of BED can be found on our BED symptoms page.

Contact us

Life Works provides first rate support and guidance in the treatment of eating disorders. To discuss how we can help you with BED, please call 01483 745 066 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.