top of page

What is Binge Eating and how is it diagnosed?

Binge eating is a common eating disorder that affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what binge eating really is and who it affects. So let's dive in and explore this complex and often misunderstood topic together.

Binge eating disorder specialist

What is binge eating and how its diagnosed

Binge Eating Disorder diagnosis criteria involve recurrent binge eating episodes, with distinct attributes: consuming large quantities of food in a restricted time frame (such as any 2-hour period), and experiencing loss of control over the eating episode. Both elements combined define an episode of binge eating.

A minimum of three associated behaviours often accompany these episodes, including: rapid consumption of food, eating to discomfort, ingesting large amounts despite not feeling hungry, solitary eating due to embarrassment, or feelings of self-disgust, depression, or extreme guilt afterwards. These conditions must persist at a frequency of once per week for a duration of three months for Binge Eating Disorder diagnosis to be considered, according to the DSM-5 criteria for this eating disorder.

Despite these stringent criteria necessary for diagnosis, binge eating exists on a continuum, ranging from occasional overeating to severe eating disorders. This continuum encompasses a spectrum of behaviours and severities, recognising that individuals might experience varying degrees of distress or impairment related to their eating habits, emphasising the need for a nuanced understanding of binge eating beyond the specific diagnostic criteria.

Binge eating can be also a distressing symptom of other eating disorders and is for example common in bulimia nervosa.

According to the charity Action Mental Health binge eating disorder is impacting approximately 1 in 50 individuals in the UK, with women being more commonly affected.

  • It's often a long-standing issue, lasting an average of 14-16 years, and is more frequently seen in individuals between ages 16 and 40.

Binge eating isn't always easy to diagnose

Binge eating is not isolated; it often coexists with mood and anxiety disorders, highlighting the complex interplay between mental health and binge eating. We discuss this further in our blog on the impact of binge eating on mental and physical health.

Moreover, many individuals do not fit within the current diagnostic criteria, as binge eating exists at subthreshold levels among the general population, causing equal distress despite not meeting the established diagnostic thresholds. This highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing a broader spectrum of individuals affected by binge eating-related distress beyond the strict diagnostic guidelines.

The experience of urges and cravings stands as a hallmark characteristic of binge eating episodes are often a central aspect of the binging behaviour. These powerful sensations can often override feelings of satiety and lead to uncontrollable consumption of large amounts of food.

How dieting and binge eating are connected

Dieting is a major factor for the onset of the binge eating disorder. It is well-documented that dieting increases the risk of overeating to counteract caloric deprivation. These dietary restraints lead to extreme hunger and preoccupation with food, which may lead to periods of uncontrolled binge eating or eating more than planned. This leads to a vicious cycle known as the binge cycle. 

Another function of binge eating is to regulate, control or numb unpleasant moods or feelings. Additionally, negative emotions such as guilt and shame around being out of control with food usually lead to more binge eating or some sufferers will call it a ‘binge – guilt – worry – repeat’ cycle. Studies suggest that certain biological factors like genetics and hormonal irregularities can also contribute to the development of binge eating disorder. Notably, those with a family history of eating disorders are at a higher risk.

Binge eating disorder specialist

Imposed strict limits on eating and eating too little creates a mounting psychological and physiological pressure to eat. Once eating starts it can be difficult to stop, but not because of lack of will powder, but because of various biochemical and nutritional imbalances that arise in the body and need to be addressed alongside the psychological and emotional triggers.

Environmental factors can heavily impact our eating behaviours. Easy availability of palatable and convenient food options, along with peer pressure in social gatherings involving overeating can trigger binges.

  • Dysfunctional family dynamics and unhealthy eating habits promoted at home may contribute to the problem.

  • Influence of social media promoting unrealistic body standards or popularising fad diets often lead to unhealthy eating patterns.

  • Additionally, misconceptions about healthy eating and misunderstanding portion sizes can amplify the frequency of binge eating episodes.

  • It's also important to consider how an individual's relationship with their own body image and self-esteem can trigger binge eating, especially during times of self-doubt and dissatisfaction.

  • Additionally, increased screen time may lead to mindless eating or snacking.

Binge eating is a complex and often misunderstood eating disorder that affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It can be a distressing experience, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and loss of control.

Understanding the factors that contribute to binge eating, such as dieting and emotional triggers, is crucial for addressing and managing the disorder.

By acknowledging the broader spectrum of individuals affected by binge eating-related distress, we can work towards a more nuanced understanding and provide support for those struggling with this disorder. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available.

If you think you may have a negative relationship with food and would like some help, then please reach out to us for support with our dedicated eating disorder and food relationship specialist.

Binge eating disorder therapist London

Irina Pollastri

Registered Nutritional Therapist, Health Coach, Eating Disorder and Obesity Specialist


Irina has a special interest in eating disorders and disordered eating, such as binge eating, bulimia, chronic dieting, restrictive eating, emotional eating, and poor relationship with food in general. To provide support in these areas and any co-occurring health conditions, Irina offers a personalised approach, which combines nutritional, behavioural, and psychological interventions.

We do not attempt to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.


bottom of page