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13 November 2014
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Obese man c/o BBC Science Photo Library

Binge Eating Disorder - the facts.

Binge Eating Disorder - The Facts

Binge Eating Disorder is an under diagnosed and under treated condition according to Beat, the national eating disorders charity. It has only recently been recognised as a disorder. We look at some of the possible causes and treatments available.

Sufferers binge – often after periods of starving themselves – but don't try and then purge. Often this is done in secret or alone.

Some people do recover. Evidence suggests that the earlier someone gets help, the better their chances. 

Binge eating is believed to be similar to depression – and is not the sufferer's "fault".

Causes and consequences

There is research going on, looking at whether environment, or "hard wiring" in the brain is responsible for binge eating.

It is very likely to be a combination of factors.

Susan Ringwood

Susan Ringwood from the charity BEAT.

Researchers disagree as to whether eating disorders are one condition (on a spectrum like autism) or are separate distinct problems.

A further issue is that there is a huge stigma attached to obesity. People with binge eating disorder often suffer ridicule and abuse.
It is not known how many people have eating disorders.

The charity Beat receive around 12,000 calls a year. But other than a survey by the Royal College of Psychiatry in 1990 which showed there were 1.1 million people suffering, there are no up to date figures.

According to the charity, Beat, binge eating disorder is more common than anorexia.

Many obese people may not know they have a recognisable condition.


Some Primary Care Trusts don't recognise Binge Eating Disorder as a distinct condition, so many people end up with inappropriate treatment such as being put on a diet.

Some of the most promising research has centred on psychological cures to help those with Binge Eating Disorder.

Julia Buckroyd

Julia Buckroyd - studying root causes.

Julia Buckroyd, Emeritus Professor of Counselling at The University of Hertfordshire has conducted  pilot studies looking at interventions. 

In her opinion emotion is a key factor in many cases of obesity. Often sufferers will have had some kind of abuse, neglect or problems with attachment. 

There is a bio chemical reason why the situation is self perpetuating as sugar and fat have an opiate like effect when someone withdraws from them for a period of time, and then binge.

In addition, going all day without eating also means you are going all day without processing your feelings.

Her pilot studies, where groups of women took part in group Cognitive Behavioural therapy, show promising results.

Professor Buckroyd is now launching her own groups, which are open to anyone - called "Understanding Your Eating". 

Groups are about to launch initially in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire,  Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire in mid February 2009.

last updated: 21/01/2009 at 10:19
created: 20/01/2009

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