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Binge Eating

Binge eating is defined as having a lack of control when eating certain foods and certain food groups – quite often sweet and highly calorific. This is obviously problematic if a person is overweight and may be contributing to their weight management. 



This is often associated with activities such as watching TV, reading or studying and the individual will usually enjoy what they eat and will eat large amounts at this time.


The bulimic binge is one of the core components of bulimia nervosa.

Bulimic binge eating differs from ‘simple’ binge eating in several ways:

  • The bulimic patient will not necessarily enjoy the food they are binge eating.

  • An extreme form of weight management, for example vomiting, the use of enemas etc.always follow the bulimic binge. Consequently, bulimic patients tend to be of normal weight.

  • Bulimic binges have a profound psychological basis.


Binge eating disorder is found in approximately 2% of the population and is predominantly seen in women (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

Binge eating disorder follows a similar pattern to bulimia except that patients do not use extreme forms of weight management. Consequently, those suffering from binge eating disorder are obese.


The causes of eating disorders are complex and may be the result of a combination of factors that include:

Social pressure : Eating disorders are predominantly seen in cultures that place a value on thinness (Haliwell and Harvey 2006).

Control : Where a person feels a lack of control in his or her life then their only means of feeling in control may be to exercise excessive control over eating habits and weight (Abraham et al 2009).

Puberty : The demands of puberty and the associated social and sexual rights of passage into adulthood can be very threatening to some (Cotrufo et al 2007). 

Anorexia nervosa can be seen as reversing some of the physical changes of becoming an adult, with the loss of pubic and facial hair in men, the reduction of breasts and the cessation of menstrual periods in women.

Family : In the dysfunctional, family control over eating may be the only way a person can express their feelings or exercise control (Haliwell and Harvey 2006). 

Where family members repeatedly diet, focus on weight as an indicator of success and are overly critical of image and appearance this may influence the development of an eating disorder in an individual (Herpertz-Dahlmann 2009).

Physical and/or emotional abuse will precipitate feelings of powerlessness and lack of control in a child. Control of eating and of weight can be seen as one way in which the child (and later the adult) can enjoy a sense of self-control and power in his or her life (Brewerton 2007).

Depression : Comfort eating can be a coping strategy in depression. This may escalate into the binge-purge cycle of bulimia or the excessive binge of binge eating disorder (Sigel 2008).

Unfortunately, vomiting and using laxatives in bulimia nervosa and the excessive weight gain in binge eating disorder can leave the individual feeling just as bad.

Low self-esteem :  A person with an eating disorder may view losing weight and controlling eating as a way of gaining a sense of respect and self-worth (Abraham et al 2009).

Emotional distress : Eating disorders are frequently associated with (Brewerton 2007):

  • Financial and social difficulties

  • Sexual abuse

  • Physical illness

  • Bereavement issues such as a death or the break-up of a relationship

  • Important stressful events such as marriage or leaving home

Habitual : An eating disorder can continue even when the precipitating event has passed and is no longer relevant. Habitual behaviours and a reliance on eating control to handle unpleasant emotions such as stress can remain and hold the disorder in place (Abraham et al 2009).

Genetics : Studies suggest that eating disorders can run in families (Mazzeo and Bulik 2009).

Neurochemistry : Some studies have shown that there may be an excess or depletion of serotonin receptors in the brains of those suffering from an eating disorder (Capasso et al 2009). Serotonin is known to influence hunger and satiety.


Eating disorders are becoming more common in males and may be attributed to (Dominé et al 2009):
an increase in occupations that demand a low body weight or low body fat percentage such as body-building, wrestling, dancing, swimming, and athletics
increased awareness of eating disorders stimulating males to seek help rather than keeping quiet


Conventional treatment for eating disorders will depend on the extent and severity of thecondition and may include (Kalodner 2005):

  • Psychotherapy or counselling

  • Hospital treatment

  • This is considered when there is a serious risk to health and life. Hospitalisation involves psychotherapy and counselling as well as controlling the patients eating.

  • Blood tests will be carried out to check anaemia and infection risk. Other physical investigations may be needed to monitor any damage to the heart, lungs and bones.

  • Advice and help from a dietician

  • Pharmacological intervention

  • Antidepressants, mood stabilisers and/or antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed to help manage emotional and neurochemical changes (Capasso et al 2009).

" Through our hypnotherapy sessions and various techniques,  Daniel improved my sleep patterns and I no longer found myself at 2 AM in the kitchen eating my way through the fridge and cupboard. We then went on to address my ever increasing weight and again with hypnotherapy, Daniel's guidance and discussion on nutrition  I'm now eating very healthily my weight is now decreasing  at a sensible level. I'm delighted." Barbara 


Before considering hypnotherapy for eating disorders, it is essential to discuss your situation with your GP or another medical professional. 

Hypnotherapy can be a valuable part of your journey to recovery by helping you resolve any past issues related to your situation and/or assist you in the cognitive restructuring of those events as well as de-conditioning any habitual responses to stress or other triggers in the present.


Abraham SF, von Lojewski A, Anderson G, Clarke S, Russell J (2009) Feelings: what questions best discriminate women with and without eating disorders? Eating and Weight Disorders 14 (1): e6-10

Brewerton TD (2007) Eating disorders, trauma, and comorbidity: focus on PTSD Eating Disorders 15 (4): 285-304

Capasso A, Putrella C, Milano W (2009) Recent clinical aspects of eating disorders Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials 4 (1): 63-9

Cotrufo P, Cella S, Cremato F, Labella AG (2007) Eating disorder attitude and abnormal eating behaviours in a sample of 11-13-year-old school children: the role of pubertal body transformation Eating and Weight Disorders 12 (4): 154-160

Dominé F, Berchtold A, Akré C, Michaud PA and Suris JC (2009) Disordered eating behaviors: what about boys? Journal of Adolescent Health 44 (2): 111-117

Halliwell E and Harvey M (2006) Examination of a sociocultural model of disordered eating among male and female adolescents British Journal of Health Psychology 11(2): 235-248

Herpertz-Dahlmann B (2009) Adolescent eating disorders: definitions, symptomatology, epidemiology and comorbidity Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 18 (1): 31-47

Kalodner CR (2005) Too Fat or Too Thin? A Reference Guide to Eating Disorders Crown House Publishing Ltd

Mazzeo SE and Bulik CM (2009) Environmental and genetic risk factors for eating disorders: what the clinician needs to know Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 18 (1): 67-82

Sigel E (2008) Eating Disorders Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews 19 (3): 547-572

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