10 Myths About Binge Eating Disorder Debunked: Get the Facts and Start Your Healing Journey

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If you’re currently struggling with binge eating disorder, it can feel like no one understands what you’re going through and that you have no control over your cravings or obsessive thoughts. Don’t give up hope — while binge eating may seem impossible to manage on its own, there is help and hope.

By debunking some of the most common misconceptions about binge eating disorders, we can remove the stigma and create a path toward healing. Let’s take a look at the myths about binge eating disorder and the realities behind them:

Let’s start by tackling the first myth:

Myth 1: Binge Eating Disorder Is Just About Lack of Self-Control

Many people struggling with food think they lack control and willpower or that they’re addicted to food. Binge eating is far more complex than that. The first step to understanding binge eating disorder is tossing aside the notion that bingeing is about control.

Binge eating disorder (BED) involves recurring episodes of eating large quantities of food to the point of discomfort, often accompanied by feelings of loss of control, shame, and guilt.

Here are some key points that differentiate BED from mere overeating: 

  • Frequency: Occasional overindulgences, like indulging in your favorite dining spot or having a feast during a holiday, is not the same as Binge Eating Disorder. A diagnosis of includes binge eating episodes at least once a week over a three-month period.
  • Emotions: While overeating can occasionally be prompted by mood, those with BED consistently use food to cope with difficult emotions, creating a cycle of binging and guilt.
  • Control: People with Binge Eating Disorder often experience a lack of control during binges, unable to stop eating even when they want to.

Recognizing that binge eating goes beyond ‘just overeating’ is vital in understanding and supporting those who are grappling with this mental health condition. It’s not a choice, but a serious disorder deserving understanding and compassion.

Reality: The Psychological Factors Behind Binge Eating Disorder

The myths and stereotypes about this eating disorder can seem unshakeable, leaving you feeling misunderstood, shamed, or even hopeless. But guess what? You’re not alone, and more importantly, you’re not to blame. 

There are two reasons behind binge eating: one has to do with having the clinically diagnosable and treatable condition of binge eating disorder, and the other is about dieting and deprivation.

Binge eating is often a way of coping with emotional distress or other underlying issues. Many people turn to food to comfort or escape from difficult emotions such as stress, sadness, or anxiety. This is often why binge eating at night is an issue. During the day, we’re busy and occupied but at night, we may start thinking about things we don’t want to think about or feel emotions we don’t want to feel. Binge eating temporarily provides relief or distraction from these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. It’s an attempt to help ourselves that ends up backfiring.

Think of it as a “frenemy” of sorts. It’s a friend that helps you cope, but it’s an enemy in that it also hurts your self-esteem and health. When we find new ways of coping, we typically stop binge eating for good.

The key to learning how to stop eating at night or when bored is to first identify and then process those underlying thoughts and emotions and find new ways of responding to ourselves. To manage those night-time food cravings, get curious about what’s happening inside. Instead of focusing on what you’re eating, think about what would be on your mind if you were not eating or preoccupied with food. 

Binge eating is not always due to emotional distress but can also result from “diet mentality” and the black-and-white line of thinking accompanying dieting, the food rules that make us feel constrained and deprived. 

And what exactly is this so-called diet mentality? It’s a mindset that categorizes food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, attaching moral value to eating habits and causing guilt and shame around food. Dieting involves deprivation, which only makes us want what we think we cannot have. Then, because we figure we’ve blown it, we may end up bingeing on all the other forbidden foods. Following that, we vow to start a new diet, and that of course eventually leads to binge eating relapse. 

This creates the diet-binge cycle that keeps us locked in a neverending pattern of dieting, binge eating relapse, and diminished self-esteem.

It’s a widespread belief that binge eating disorder is merely a lack of self-control over food. This is a myth. In reality, it’s a serious health disorder that is diagnosable and treatable. 

Myth 2: Binge Eating Disorder Only Affects Women

Another common misconception is that binge eating disorder is exclusive to women. But, keep in mind, men suffer too. Despite the societal stereotypes, Binge Eating Disorder does not discriminate by gender. Men may often struggle silently due to the stigma attached, making them less likely to seek help.

It’s a prevalent myth and incorrect assumption that eating disorders, especially Binge Eating Disorder, are problems only women face. Gender stereotypes often color our perceptions, but let’s get this straight – binge eating affects both men and women. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender. In fact, research shows that men make up about 40% of those affected by binge eating disorder. 

Reality: Men and Binge Eating Disorder

The trouble, however, is the societal stigma surrounding men and eating disorders can create a barrier, making men less likely to open up, admit they’re struggling, and seek the help they need. This silence can hinder their journey towards recovery. So, it’s important to challenge these stereotypes and create an environment where everyone feels safe to seek help. 

Like women, men with Binge Eating Disorder may also struggle with body image issues and emotional distress. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their eating behaviors, leading to secrecy and isolation. Men experience similar physical and psychological consequences, such as weight gain, low self-esteem, and depression. It is essential to understand that binge eating does not discriminate based on gender and affects people from all walks of life.

It’s also worth noting that there may be some differences in how Binge Eating Disorder manifests in men compared to women. For example, men may be more likely to binge on foods that are considered socially acceptable or masculine, such as high-calorie, protein-rich foods like burgers and pizza. 

Another misconception is that men with Binge Eating Disorder are primarily overweight or obese. While weight gain is a possible consequence of binge eating, it is not a defining characteristic. Men struggling with food can have a range of body weights, including those average or below-average weight. Again, bingeing goes beyond physical appearance.

Seeking help is essential for men struggling with this issue. Unfortunately, societal expectations and stereotypes around masculinity can make it challenging for men to acknowledge and address their eating issues. Men must understand that seeking support is not a sign of weakness but rather a brave step towards healing. 

Myth 3: Binge Eating Disorder Is Not a Real Medical Condition

Despite the pervasiveness of Binge Eating Disorder—it’s the most common eating disorder in the United States—it’s still shrouded in stigma and misunderstanding. One of these myths is that it’s not a “real” condition and is just an excuse for overeating. 

Binge eating is not about overindulgence. It’s a mental health condition that has been misunderstood and stigmatized. The misconception that it’s simply about being greedy or lacking self-control is harmful. Binge eating disorder is complex and can have severe emotional and psychological effects. 

We need to change the narrative of blame and shame and recognize it as a valid mental health issue that can be treated. By dispelling these myths, we can encourage more people to seek help and create a more compassionate society that supports healing and recovery for those affected by binge-eating disorder and other mental health conditions.

Reality: The Medical Recognition of Binge Eating Disorder

For years, Binge Eating Disorder was overshadowed and misunderstood compared to other eating disorders. However, in 2013, Binge Eating Disorder was officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This decision was based on extensive research and clinical evidence, acknowledging Binge Eating Disorder as a serious mental health condition characterized by uncontrollable episodes of binge eating.

Medical recognition has played a vital role in raising awareness and challenging the stigma surrounding binge eating. Emphasizing the psychological aspects of the disorder has shifted the focus from seeing it as a personal shortcoming to a genuine health concern. The formal recognition of Binge Eating Disorder provides hope and support to people battling this condition. With diagnosis and treatment, people can heal and transform their relationship with food forever.

Myth #4: Binge Eating Disorder Can Be Overcome Just by Dieting

People sometimes see binge eating as a simple issue of food intake, overlooking the emotional and psychological struggles that lie beneath. They think, “Dieting will help me eat less.”  They believe that sticking to a meal plan will stop them from binge eating.

The opposite is true. Dieting can cause bingeing. Dieting leads to binge eating due to the restrictive nature of many diets. When we restrict our food intake and follow strict rules, it creates a sense of deprivation. This deprivation can trigger intense cravings and a preoccupation with food, leading to episodes of binge eating. 

Dieting can lead to a cycle of deprivation and bingeing. Restricting food and being super hungry leads to intense hunger and cravings. This can eventually lead to a loss of control around food, resulting in episodes of binge eating. The guilt and shame that follow these episodes may then trigger more bingeing to cope with those difficult feelings.

Additionally, dieting often involves labeling certain foods as good or bad, which can create a negative relationship with food. This dichotomy can lead to guilt and shame when we eat foods labeled bad or forbidden. Eating those foods makes us feel bad about ourselves, leading to anguish and negative self-talk. Then, we may binge to silence our inner critic.

Not everyone who diets will develop Binge Eating Disorder ,but there is a strong association between dieting and the development of disordered eating behaviors. It is crucial to approach health goals in a balanced and sustainable way, focusing on nourishing the body rather than restricting by dieting.

Also, dieting only focuses on what we’re eating, and not why. It keeps us from understanding ourselves and recognizing the underlying conflicts and emotions leading to binge eating, and keeps us focused on what we’re eating instead of what’s eating “at” us.

Reality: The Role of Therapy

Many people think, ‘I can handle this on my own, right?’ Wrong. Binge Eating Disorder is not just about food — it’s about coping mechanisms, emotional regulation, and more, so professional help is often required for lasting change. 

Since binge eating is often a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, trauma, or negative emotions, psychotherapy helps us identify and understand these triggers, develop healthier coping strategies, and work through any unresolved issues behind binge eating behaviors. Without therapy, most people stay locked into the endless diet-binge cycle.

Therapy is necessary to resolve the problem “how to stop binge eating when bored” because it provides tools and support to address the underlying psychological and emotional factors contributing to the disorder.  Depth psychology (also known as psychoanalysis) helps people identify the hidden emotions and conflicts impacting their relationship with themselves and, therefore, with food, and then develop new ways of responding to themselves, resulting in healing and lasting change.

Myth #5: Binge Eating Disorder Only Affects Overweight People

A common assumption is that you must be overweight if you have a binge-eating disorder. Again, this is not true. While it’s true that some people struggling with binge-eating disorder are overweight, it affects people of all body shapes and sizes. It affects people of average weight and even those who are underweight. You cannot diagnose this disorder simply from someone’s external appearance. 

The misconception that only overweight people experience binge eating can be harmful as it may prevent individuals who don’t fit the stereotype from seeking help or receiving a proper diagnosis. Recognizing that Binge Eating Disorder can affect anyone, regardless of their weight or body size, is important.

Reality: The Misunderstanding of Weight and Eating Disorders

Another reason why the myth that binge eating only affects overweight people is misleading is that it fails to acknowledge the emotional and psychological factors that contribute to the development of binge eating.  Binge eating is a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges. These underlying factors can affect people of any weight, and it is essential to address the psychological aspects of the disorder rather than solely focusing on weight or body size.

Also, assuming that overweight people have Binge Eating Disorder perpetuates stigma and shame. Binge eating disorder can impact people of any weight or body size.  By recognizing that binge eating is not solely determined by weight and addressing the underlying emotional factors, we can stop the shame and help more people heal.

Myth 6: Binge Eating Disorder Does Not Co-Exist with Other Disorders

The idea that Binge Eating Disorder is a stand-alone condition is a common misconception. 

Reality: The Comorbidity of Binge Eating Disorder and Other Conditions

Many people who struggle with food also struggle with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Binge Eating Disorder has been associated with higher rates of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. This is not surprising since bingeing is a way of managing painful and difficult emotions. Therefore, these are disorders that are interwoven. By resolving and healing the underlying depression, social anxiety, and other conditions, binge eating also resolves.

Myth 7: Binge Eating Is the Same as Overeating

Binge eating and overeating may seem similar on the surface, but they are not the same. While both involve consuming large amounts of food, the two have distinct differences. 

Reality: The Distinction Between Binge Eating and Overeating

Binge eating is characterized by a loss of control during eating episodes, where individuals feel compelled to eat rapidly and excessively. Feelings of guilt, shame, and distress often accompany this behavior. On the other hand, overeating refers to consuming more food than what is considered normal or necessary but without the loss of control and emotional distress associated with binge eating. (While conditions like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are more widely recognized by the general public, there are other less common disorders and eating-related conditions that can be equally severe and debilitating.)

Binge eating is a psychological disorder recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), whereas overeating is a behavior that can occur occasionally or as a result of certain circumstances, such as social gatherings or celebrations. Overeating during the American holiday of Thanksgiving is common and even expected.

Binge eating disorder involves recurrent episodes of binge eating, typically accompanied by a sense of powerlessness and an inability to stop eating. Also, when people overeat, they may think, “I overdid it, so I’ll eat less tomorrow or hit the gym.” They don’t feel bad about themselves.

People binge don’t just feel bad about what they ate; they feel terrible about themselves. They may think, “What’s wrong with me? I’m disgusting,” which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred and then bingeing to cope.

Myth 8: People with Binge Eating Disorder Don’t Want to Get Better

Some people believe that those with Binge Eating Disorder are complacent and don’t actually want to change. This myth is completely false. People with struggling with binge eating absolutely want to get better. Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Just like any other condition, individuals with binge-eating disorder desire to feel better and live a healthier life. 

Reality: The Desire for Healing and Recovery

It is also important to note that recovery from binge-eating disorder is not linear. Binge eating relapse and setbacks are common, but that doesn’t indicate a lack of desire to get better. Creating lasting change involves learning new coping mechanisms, addressing underlying emotional issues, and developing a healthier relationship with food. It requires patience, perseverance, and ongoing support. It is crucial to provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for people to express their struggles and seek the help they need. 

Also, although the term “recovery” is commonly used, I propose a different word: liberation. Recovery means always being “in” recovery, but liberation means that a battle has been fought and won, and the war is over. It is possible to stop the inner battle, make peace with food, and feel good.

Myth 9: Binge Eating Disorder Only Affects Adults

Binge Eating Disorder is often believed only to affect adults. While it is true that it is more commonly diagnosed in adults, it can also affect children and adolescents. Research suggests that Binge Eating Disordder may start as early as adolescence, with some people developing symptoms in early childhood. Binge Eating Disorder can impact people of all ages, and early intervention is crucial for effective treatment and prevention of long-term consequences.

Reality: Binge Eating Disorder and Different Age Groups

Contrary to popular belief, binge-eating disorder is not limited to a specific age group and can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. The misconception that it only affects adults may stem from the fact that it often goes undiagnosed or unrecognized in younger individuals. Children and adolescents may exhibit different symptoms or behaviors compared to adults, making it more challenging to identify. However, it is essential to raise awareness about the prevalence of Binge Eating Disorder among young people and ensure appropriate support and treatment are available.

Children and adolescents who struggle with food may face unique challenges and require specialized care. Parents, educators, and healthcare professionals need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder in younger kids. By debunking the myth that this disorder only affects adults, we can promote early intervention, provide appropriate support, and help younger people on their healing journey.

Myth 10: It Is a Choice

This final myth may be the most damaging of all — the misconception that binge eating disorder is a choice. No, it’s not. People with binge eating disorder do not choose their situation. It is a condition driven by a combination of psychological, emotional, and biological factors that can make it extremely challenging to control. Nobody chooses to eat until they feel sick and then feel disgusted with themselves and filled with self-hatred. Bingeing is a compulsion, not a choice.

Reality: Understanding Binge Eating Disorder as a Complex Mental Health Condition

People with Binge Eating Disorder often experience intense distress, such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness, which can trigger episodes of binge eating. Understood this way, they use food as a coping mechanism to deal with emotional pain or numb themselves from difficult, painful emotions. Binge eating becomes a way to temporarily escape or find comfort, even though it may lead to feelings of guilt and shame afterward. It is essential to recognize and address underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma that may be contributing to the disorder. 

Now that we’ve dispelled these myths, let’s heal together. The first step is getting informed, and the next is seeking help. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey – and liberation is not just possible – with the right guidance, it’s probable. All you have to do is reach out.

Starting Your Healing Journey with Professional Help

Starting your healing journey for binge-eating disorder with professional help is crucial for several reasons. First, professionals who specialize in eating disorders have the knowledge and expertise to provide you with the most effective treatment options. They understand the complexities of Binge Eating Disorder and can tailor a treatment plan specifically for you. This personalized approach increases the likelihood of long-term healing and can finally solve your problem of how to stop binge eating at night.

Second, seeking professional help ensures that you have a support system in place. Binge eating can be isolating and overwhelming, but with the guidance of a professional, you won’t have to face it alone. Professionals can offer emotional support, help you navigate challenging moments, and provide a safe space to express your thoughts and feelings.

Additionally, professionals can help you address the underlying causes of your binge eating disorder. They can assist you in identifying any emotional or psychological triggers contributing to your disordered eating patterns. By addressing these root causes, you can work towards resolving them and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

With the expertise of a professional, and their support and guidance, you can significantly increase your chances of liberating yourself from binge eating, taking back control of your life, and feeling good in your body.

Other Resources:

It’s crucial to access reliable resources and professional help when dealing with Binge Eating Disorder. Here are some online resources you might find helpful:

  1. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): NEDA provides extensive resources, support options, and information concerning BED and other eating disorders.
  2. Eating Disorders Hope: Offers articles, treatment options, support groups, and recovery tools for individuals dealing with BED.
  3. Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA): BEDA provides support, advocacy, and resources for those affected by binge eating.
  4. FindTreatment.gov: A confidential, searchable directory of treatment providers in the United States for substance abuse, addiction, and mental health, including eating disorders.
  5. Mindful Eating Programs: There are various online programs aimed at promoting mindfulness and intuitive eating, which can be supportive in recovery from BED.
  6. Therapy Platforms: BetterHelp and Talkspace offer online therapy with professionals who can help with eating disorders.
  7. Online Support Groups: Look for online forums or support groups dedicated to discussing and supporting individuals with Binge Eating Disorder. Make sure they are moderated by professionals to ensure a safe and supportive environment.
  8. EDReferral.com: This site provides a comprehensive directory of eating disorder treatment professionals and facilities.
  9. Academy for Eating Disorders (AED): AED offers resources and education for professionals, individuals with eating disorders, and their families.
  10. Eating Disorders Online: A comprehensive resource for individuals seeking information on eating disorders.

Each of these resources can provide valuable information, yet it’s essential to remember that personal circumstances and needs are unique. Consulting with healthcare professionals specializing in eating disorders is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Keep in mind that the journey to heal from Binge Eating Disorder is a personal one and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to create a support system that meets your needs and promotes a positive, sustainable path to liberation from binge eating.

Frequently asked questions:

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a diagnosable and treatable eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of consuming large quantities of food, often very quickly and to the point of discomfort. This is usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and distress. It is a negative coping strategy and people struggling with BED can completely heal from this disorder.

How is Binge Eating Disorder diagnosed?

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is diagnosed based on specific criteria defined by leading health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association. Professionals typically conduct a thorough evaluation, including a detailed interview about eating habits, mental health, and overall well-being. Remember, getting a diagnosis is a brave step towards understanding and treating BED.

What causes Binge Eating Disorder?

There’s no single cause for BED. It’s usually a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. This might include family history, personal feelings about one’s body, and societal pressures. However, it’s essential to know that anyone, regardless of these factors, can develop BED. Ultimately, it’s a negative coping strategy that can be changed.

How does Binge Eating Disorder affect mental health?

BED is often associated with feelings of distress, guilt, and shame, and can be a way of coping with depression and anxiety that ends up intensifying these moods. Remember that support and treatment are available.

What are the health risks associated with Binge Eating Disorder?

BED can lead to various health risks, including obesity (although not everyone who struggles is overweight), diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal issues. While these risks sound scary, it’s important to remember that they can be managed and even reversed with proper treatment and care.

What treatment options are available for Binge Eating Disorder?

There are various treatments for BED but the most effective treatment is to identify and process the underlying ideas, emotions and beliefs that lead to the behavior. Depth psychology (psychoanalytic approach) is a highly effective means of treating BED.

Can Binge Eating Disorder be cured?

Yes. While BED is often misunderstood as a chronic condition, it can definitely be cured and people can liberate themselves from emotional eating, regain control over their eating habits and live healthy, fulfilling lives.

What resources are available for individuals with Binge Eating Disorder?

There are many resources available for individuals with BED, including psychotherapists,  support groups, and online communities. These resources provide a wealth of information, support, and practical strategies for managing BED.

How can loved ones support individuals with Binge Eating Disorder?

Loved ones can provide emotional support, understanding, and encouragement. They can also help by educating themselves about BED, participating in therapy if appropriate, and promoting a positive, non-judgmental environment. Remember, your support makes a significant difference in your loved one’s recovery journey.

How long does it take to treat Binge Eating Disorder?

The duration of treatment for Binge Eating Disorder can vary considerably for each person, as it is influenced by factors such as the severity of the disorder, the person’s commitment to recovery, and their response to treatment. It’s important to remember that everyone’s recovery journey is unique and it’s not a race. Patience, persistence, and self-care play critical roles in successful treatment.

How do I prevent a relapse?

Relapse prevention is a critical component of recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. It involves developing a strong understanding of your triggers and learning effective strategies to cope with them. Implementing a structured meal plan, maintaining regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider, and continuing with psychotherapy can be beneficial. Regular exercise and maintaining a positive support network can also play a significant role in preventing a relapse. It’s important to remember that experiencing a relapse does not mean failure, but rather an opportunity to reassess and readjust your coping mechanisms. It’s a part of the recovery journey, and with the right support and resilience, you can regain control.

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 The Author



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Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a renowned author and podcast host and one of the nation’s leading psychoanalysts known for the psychology of eating. Her signature message of, “It’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating ‘at’ you” has resonated with hundreds of thousands of listeners from around the globe in 40 countries. As founder of The Binge Cure Method, she guides emotional eaters to create lasting food freedom so they can take back control of their lives and feel good in their bodies.


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