Binge eating disorder

Read about the different treatments for binge eating disorder, including self-help programmes, psychological therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Most people get better from binge eating disorder with treatment and support.

Guided help

You will probably be offered a guided self-help programme as a first step in treating your binge eating disorder. This often involves working through a self-help book combined with sessions with a healthcare professional, such as a therapist.

These self-help books may take you through a programme that helps you to:

  • monitor what you are eating – this can help you notice and try to change patterns in your behaviour
  • make realistic meal plans – planning what and when you intend to eat throughout the day can help you regulate your eating, prevent hunger and reduce binge eating
  • learn about your triggers – this can help you to recognise the signs, intervene and prevent a binge
  • identify the underlying causes of your disorder – this means you can work on those issues in a healthier way
  • find other ways of coping with your feelings
  • understand and learn how to manage your weight in a healthy way

Joining a self-help support group, like one of the Beat online support groups for people with binge eating disorder, may be helpful to you.

If self-help treatment alone isn't enough or hasn't helped you after 4 weeks, you may also be offered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or medication.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

If you are offered CBT, it will usually be in group sessions with other people, but it may also be offered as one-to-one individual sessions with a therapist.

You should be offered about 16 weekly sessions over 4 months, each one lasting about 90 minutes for a group session, and 60 minutes for an individual session.

CBT involves talking to a therapist, who will help you explore patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that could be contributing to your eating disorder.

They will help you to:

  • plan out the meals and snacks you should have during the day to help you adopt regular eating habits
  • work out what is triggering your binge eating
  • change and manage negative feelings about your body
  • stick to your new eating habits so that you don't relapse back into binge eating

Medication

Antidepressants should not be offered as the only treatment for binge eating disorder. But you may be offered an antidepressant, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), in combination with therapy or self-help treatment, to help you manage other conditions, such as:

  • anxiety or depression
  • social phobia
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Antidepressants are rarely prescribed for children or young people under 18.

You can find out more about the side effects of antidepressants.

Losing weight

It is common to put on weight as a result of binge eating, which can lead to you becoming overweight or obese.

Being obese increases your risk of a number of health problems, including:

Treatment for binge eating disorder is unlikely to change your weight. But, by helping you to stop binge eating it will help you not put on any more weight.

You shouldn't try to diet while you are having treatment because it can make it much more difficult to stop binge eating. But doing regular exercise during treatment may help you lose weight.

Treatment for binge eating will usually include a plan to help with healthy eating and exercise.

Once your treatment is finished, you may wish to work on losing weight, and it's important that you lose weight healthily. Extreme dieting and cutting out meals can make your binge eating come back.

If you're struggling to lose weight, talk to your GP or a dietitian.

Read more about treating obesity, weight loss and healthy eating.

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