Best Treatments For Binge-Eating Disorder Revealed In New Review

'A person who binge eats uses food as a means of coping with, or silencing, negative emotions such as anxiety or depression.'

People with binge-eating disorder can be best helped with talk therapy or medication, according to a review of studies on the subject.

Binge eating can be defined as “consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time”. Often, a person will eat until they become uncomfortably full.

“A person who binge eats uses food as a means of coping with, or silencing, negative emotions such as anxiety or depression,” a spokesperson for eating disorders charity Beat told The Huffington Post UK.

An independent review of previous studies on the eating disorder concluded that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help reduce binge-eating.

Similarly, a class of drugs known as second-generation antidepressants, as well as the amphetamine called lisdexamfetamine (or Vyvanse) helped ease symptoms among sufferers.

The review has been welcomed by Beat who said there "hasn’t been enough research carried out on binge-eating disorder".

"Reviews such as this are crucial in informing clinical guidance such as the NICE guidelines - due in 2017 - and improving clinical practice," said a spokesperson.

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Bingeing can be a very secretive and guilt-ridden experience. Sufferers will uncontrollably eat, hiding away so that others cannot see them.

The condition tends to first develop in young adults, although many people do not seek help until they are in their 30s or 40s.

It is estimated that the disorder affects 350,000 people in the UK.

People with binge eating disorder can spend “abnormal” amounts of money on food. They will then eat in secret, so that the amount of food being consumed is not observed.

“Because of the amount of food eaten, many people with binge eating disorder can become obese,” said Beat’s spokesperson. “This can lead to problems with blood pressure, heart disease and a general lack of fitness.”

The disorder can result in health issues including stomach pain, irregular periods in females, poor or spotty skin, constipation and sleeping difficulties.


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Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analysed data from nine studies of psychological treatments and 25 studies of medications in patients with binge-eating disorder.

They found that CBT helped people to identify thoughts associated with binge-eating and helped them to change their behaviours.

Meanwhile the medications reduced obsessions and compulsions related to the disorder, including decreasing a person's impulse to eat.

Examples of second-generation antidepressants include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).

The review couldn't help researchers determine whether one second-generation antidepressant was better than others. Similarly, they couldn't say that any of the treatment types were fundamentally better than others.

"There have been no head-to-head (comparisons) and that’s really essential," said lead author Kimberly Brownley.

The review shows that treatments are available and people don't have to suffer through the disorder alone, she added.

For those who might be reading this and feeling concerned about their own attitudes towards eating, the next best step is to seek help and support.

“For yourself, do try to tell someone you trust,” advised a Beat spokesperson. “They are likely to be more understanding than you realise, and having someone ‘on your side’ will make it so much easier to make the changes you will need to overcome your difficulties.”

For people who are worried about a family member or friend, they added: “Don’t be afraid to talk to them and offer support. The chances are they are desperately hoping someone will notice and reach out to them.

“Try to understand and ask about what is worrying them, rather than blame and shame them - they already feel dreadful, and that doesn’t help. Talking about their feelings, rather than the food is a good starting point.”

Other sites and phone numbers you may find useful:

Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 499 or email:

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