Binge Eating Disorder Therapy Online
What is binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder marked by recurrent episodes of consuming large amounts of food, often rapidly and to the point of discomfort. While there is not a specific number of calories that would define a binge, it is often described as the ingestion of a significantly exceeding amount of food that anyone else would eat under the same circumstances. These episodes, known as “binges,” are typically accompanied by a sense of loss of control, during which the person feels unable to stop eating, even if they are not hungry. They become habitual and are repeated regularly, at least once a week for three months or more.
Unlike other eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, the person with BED does not regularly engage in compensatory behaviours such as purging, excessive exercise, or fasting after bingeing. However, similarly to bulimia nervosa, the binges are equally followed by strong feelings of guilt and shame.
Some people with BED may eat secretively, using food as a way to cope with emotional distress. The problem with using food as a coping mechanism is that it only works in the short term, bringing a sense of momentary relief. However, it doesn’t last long, and the guilt and shame it leaves behind is so distressing that the person needs to eat more and more to get the same relief. The brain learns it can make unpleasant feelings go away instantly with food, so the next time the person becomes upset for whatever reason, she will be urged to eat. By eating to get rid of emotions, the brain is also learning that we can’t handle emotions and that we need to get rid of them. In the long term, the problem is reinforced in a never-ending circle.
BED is a serious problem, as it can lead to other psychological and physical issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. For this reason, seeking help is in most cases required.
When is it time to seek therapy for binge eating disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) establishes that bingeing episodes become a problem when they occur as often as one day a week for at least three months. If you find yourself struggling with these uncontrollable episodes of overeating occurring as frequently as that, we recommend considering therapy.
Other indicators that it might be time to seek therapy for binge eating disorder include:
- Negative body image and self-esteem: If binge eating is causing you to have negative perceptions of your body and low self-esteem, therapy can help you address these issues.
- Failed attempts to control binges: If you’ve tried to control or stop binge eating on your own without success, seeking professional help can provide you with effective strategies and support.
- Physical health concerns: If binge eating is leading to obesity, weight-related health problems, or other physical health issues, therapy can help you manage your eating habits and improve your overall well-being.
- Feeling out of control: If you frequently feel like you’re unable to control your eating during binge episodes, therapy can provide you with tools to regain control and establish healthier eating patterns.
- Psychological impact: If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges as a result of your binge eating, therapy can address both the underlying causes and the emotional consequences.
Ultimately, the decision to seek binge eating disorder therapy depends on your individual experience and needs. Early intervention and seeking help when you feel ready can significantly improve your chances of successfully managing and recovering from a binge eating disorder.
Therapy for binge eating disorder
Cognitive-behavioural therapy for binge eating (CBT-E)
Cognitive-behavioural therapy enhanced (CBT-E) is the adapted version of traditional CBT for eating disorders, including binge eating. It is an extensively recognized and effective therapeutic approach for this disorder, helping to identify, understand, and modify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that trigger binge eating episodes. CBT-E for BED allows clients to regain control over their eating behaviours, manage emotional triggers, and develop healthier coping strategies.
How CBT for binge eating disorder works:
CBT for BED is structured and goal-oriented. It involves several key components:
- Self-monitoring: You will learn to keep a detailed record of your eating patterns, identifying triggers, emotions, and situations that lead to binge episodes.
- Regular eating patterns: CBT emphasises the importance of regular and balanced eating. You’ll learn to establish structured mealtimes and develop a consistent eating routine, reducing the likelihood of extreme hunger that can trigger binges.
- Cognitive restructuring: With the help of your therapist, you’ll identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to binge eating. This allows you to develop a more realistic perspective on food, body image, and self-worth.
- Behavioural strategies: You’ll work on developing practical strategies to manage triggers and cope with challenging emotions without turning to binge eating. Some examples of behavioural tools include problem-solving skills and distraction techniques.
- Stress management: Since stress often plays a role in BED, CBT equips you with techniques to manage stress more effectively, reducing the need to turn to food for comfort.
Benefits of CBT for binge eating
CBT offers several significant benefits for individuals struggling with binge eating disorder:
- Reducing binge eating episodes: CBT has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the frequency and intensity of binge eating episodes.
- Improving emotional well-being: As binges reduce, feelings of guilt, shame, and distress also decrease.
- Promoting healthier eating behaviours: People learn to establish structured and regular eating patterns. This new balanced nutrition reduces binges triggered by physical hunger, which in turn decreases guilt while increasing hope.
- Enhancing self-efficacy: As individuals acquire practical skills to manage triggers and cope with challenging situations, their confidence in their ability to handle difficult circumstances increases. This empowerment extends beyond eating behaviours to various areas of life.
- Addressing negative self-image: CBT develops a more realistic and positive perception of the self, which can positively impact self-esteem and overall emotional well-being.
Efficacy of CBT for binge eating
The literature shows that CBT can lead to important reductions in binge eating episodes. As a result, CBT-E has become a gold standard treatment for those who binge.
Our approach to binge eating therapy
We use CBT-E adapted for binge eating disorder as a main approach, as it is one of the most researched and proven successful treatments for this condition. For cases resistant to CBT-E or situations where specific needs or circumstances dictate, we may also use acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This second approach is also helpful for binge eating due to its focus on acceptance of emotions. Remember that binge episodes are often caused by the rejection of an emotion and the desire to get rid of it. ACT teaches the person to stay with those emotions, letting them be without the need to run away.
In addition to these approaches, we incorporate elements of compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Ultimately, we aim to listen and understand you so we can adapt the treatment to your specific needs.
Finally, it is highly important to us to create a safe and non-judgmental environment, since we know the emotional challenges that come with BED, including guilt and shame. This is a compassionate space for you to open up about your emotions, and concerns.
While we don’t know the exact causes of BED, here you can read some common factors that can contribute to its development:
- Genetic factors: There appears to be a genetic component to BED. Individuals with a family history of eating disorders or related mental health conditions might be more predisposed to developing the problem.
- Psychological factors: Emotional difficulties, such as low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and stress, are often linked to BED. Binge eating can provide temporary relief from negative emotions, leading to a reinforcing cycle.
- Dieting and restriction: Strict dieting or extreme restriction of food intake can trigger a cycle of deprivation and binge eating.
- Trauma and childhood experiences: Traumatic events, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during childhood, can contribute to disordered eating patterns, including BED, as a way to cope with unresolved emotions.
- Emotional regulation: Difficulty managing and regulating emotions can lead to the use of food as a coping mechanism. Binge eating might temporarily alleviate emotional distress.
- Social and cultural factors: Societal pressures to conform to certain body ideals and cultural norms regarding weight and appearance can contribute to body dissatisfaction, fostering a vulnerability to BED.
- Family and environmental factors: Dysfunctional family dynamics, childhood experiences of food-related behaviours (e.g., food used as a reward or comfort), and exposure to family members with disordered eating patterns can contribute to the development of BED.
- Stress and life transitions: Major life changes, such as moving, divorce, job loss, or other stressors, can trigger or exacerbate binge eating behaviours as a way to cope with the stress.
- Dysfunctional coping mechanisms: Some individuals may not have developed effective coping strategies for dealing with stress, leading them to turn to binge eating as a way to manage emotions.
Binge eating disorder is characterised by recurring episodes of consuming unusually large amounts of food within a short period, often accompanied by a sense of loss of control. Here are the key symptoms associated with BED:
- Recurrent binge episodes: Frequent episodes of eating significantly more food in a discrete period than most people would eat under similar circumstances. These episodes are characterised by a lack of control and an inability to stop eating.
- Rapid eating: During binge episodes, individuals may consume food quickly, often to the point of discomfort.
- Eating when not hungry: People with BED might eat when they are not physically hungry. The act of binge eating is often triggered by emotional distress, stress, or other non-physiological factors.
- Isolation and secrecy: Many individuals with BED eat in secret to avoid judgement or embarrassment. Binge eating might occur when alone to hide the behaviour from others.
- Emotional distress: Feelings of guilt, shame, and distress are common during and after binge eating episodes. This emotional turmoil often exacerbates the disorder.
- Loss of control: A hallmark of BED is the feeling of being unable to control one’s eating during a binge episode, even when attempting to stop.
- Eating despite fullness: Individuals might continue eating even when they are physically full, driven by the emotional urge to consume more.
- Preoccupation with food and eating: Thoughts about food, eating, and body image might consume a significant portion of an individual’s day, leading to preoccupation and distress.
- Negative body image: Individuals with BED often experience negative body image and dissatisfaction with their appearance, which can contribute to emotional distress.
- Withdrawal from social activities: Due to shame or embarrassment, people with BED might withdraw from social events involving food or eating.
- Weight fluctuations: While BED is not exclusively linked to weight gain, many individuals with BED may experience fluctuations in weight due to the cycle of binge eating and subsequent restriction.
- Lack of compensatory behaviours: Unlike other eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, individuals with BED generally do not engage in compensatory behaviours (e.g., purging, exercising to compensate, laxatives) after binge eating.
Do you offer binge eating therapy near me?
We offer online binge eating therapy because this way we can reach you out whenever you are in the world. We are trained in the United Kingdom and provide cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).