Binge eating is an eating disorder where a person feels they have to overeat through regular binges.
People who binge eat consume very large amounts of food over a short period of time, even when they’re not hungry.
Binges are often planned in advance and can involve the person buying ‘special’ binge foods.
In some cases, people describe themselves as being in a ‘dazed’ state during a binge – particularly binges during the night – and can’t remember what they ate.
People who binge eat feel they have no control over their eating. They often binge in private because they feel embarrassed, guilty or disgusted with their behaviour after they’ve finished eating.
Episodes of binge eating sometimes alternate with periods where the person cuts down on the amount of food they eat. This can lead to a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break, where blood sugar levels rise and fall rapidly. Your blood sugar level affects how hungry you feel and how much energy your body has. When the levels go up and down quickly, this sends false messages to the brain and causes cravings for food when your body doesn't need it.
How common is it?
Anyone can be affected by binge eating. It’s estimated that there’s around a 1 in 30 to 1 in 50 chance of a person developing binge eating disorder at some point during their life.
It’s most common for the condition to develop in young adults. It can take a long time for people to feel able to seek help.
Many people occasionally overeat – this doesn't necessarily mean you have binge eating disorder. However, if you’re worried about your eating habits, the best thing to do is talk to your GP.
Treating binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder can be treated using a number of talking therapies, including guided self-help and cognitive behavioural therapy for eating disorders (CBT-ED).
Learn more about talking therapy
Learn more about self-help therapies
These treatments can help you overcome the psychological issues associated with your binge eating, but they won't usually have a significant impact on your weight.
If you’re worried you have binge eating disorder, the first step is to go to your GP for a medical check-up and advice on how to get treatment.
Find a local GP using Scotland's Service Directory