Do I Have Binge Eating Disorder?

When does binge eating cross the line and become an eating disorder? If you are someone who struggles with binge eating, you might be wondering if you fit the criteria for Binge Eating Disorder. (BED)

BED is the most common eating disorder and yet so many suffers don’t feel like it is a ‘legitimate’ eating disorder. They will often blame themselves and put it down to a lack of willpower (I know I did). 22% of diagnosed eating disorders in the UK come under the criteria for BED. It is actually more common than both anorexia (8%) and bulimia (19%) .

According to the DSM-5 a ‘binge’ requires you to eat a large quantity of food in a specified period of time (e.g. 2 hours) and that the amount eaten was ‘definitely larger’ compared to what most people would consume in a similar situation. Most importantly, you experience a sense that you were not in control of your eating.

That first part is a bit tricky because who knows what ‘most people’ are doing when it comes to eating? If you have a disordered relationship with food, you may have a biased view about how much you believe everyone else must be eating.

do i have binge eating disorder

This is one of the reasons why a diagnosis can be so subjective.

To meet the criteria for BED you also need to experience 3 out of 5 of the following:

  1. Eating more rapidly than usual

  2. Eating until uncomfortably full

  3. Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.

  4. Eating alone/secrecy due to embarrassment.

  5. Feeling disgusted/depressed/very guilty after eating

Your bingeing also needs to occur on average once a week for a least 3 months and you need to be in distress about your eating behaviours (if you are feeling ok with your binge eating, technically it isn’t binge eating disorder).

And finally, you are not using ‘inappropriate compensatory’ behaviours such as purging, overexercising, fasting, laxatives etc. These would come under a different eating disorder, usually bulimia nervosa.

Dieting or attempting to diet technically doesn’t count as an ‘inappropriate compensatory’ behaviour, probably because the medical world sees it as entirely appropriate. The problem is, dieting usually perpetuates binge eating.

For some people, calling it binge eating disorder is actually a relief. It was for me in the beginning and I think this is because calling it an eating disorder made me feel like it was a problem that could be defined and understood. That meant there was hope. Hope that there were people out there who might know how to help me.

However, it might be that for you, calling it an eating disorder makes it feel bigger and scarier and causes you to feel less hopeful about recovery. If so, it may not be helpful for you to think about it this way. I’m in favour of calling it whatever feels most useful for increasing understanding, developing self-compassion and finding recovery.

Ultimately this is YOUR relationship with food

So you can call it whatever the hell you want.

*Disclaimer This post is for informational purposes only. Please be cautious about diagnosing yourself with an eating disorder. Speak to a healthcare professional if possible or call B-Eat on 0808 801 0677.

In my book, I Can’t Stop Eating, I share from my personal journey to recovery from binge eating as well as my experience helping clients break free from compulsive eating. The book lays out a path to recovery from binge eating and making peace with food. Available on Amazon.

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