Binge eating disorder

Treatment

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:

  • 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.

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

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

If you're 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:

  • 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 you don't relapse into binge eating

You shouldn't try to diet while you are having treatment because this can make it much more difficult to stop binge eating.

Medication

Antidepressants should not be offered as the only treatment for binge eating disorder. But you may be offered an antidepressant, like 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.

Find out more about the side effects of antidepressants.

Page last reviewed: 27/12/2017
Next review due: 27/12/2020