Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Binge-eating disorder (BED)

4-minute read

What is binge-eating disorder?

Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder. A person with binge-eating disorder will frequently eat very large quantities of food in a short period of time. They often feel as though they have lost control of their eating.

Binge-eating disorder is a serious mental health disorder. It makes up almost half of all cases of eating disorder in Australia.

What causes binge-eating disorder?

Some people have no obvious reason for having binge-eating disorder. Some will have a family history of eating disorders. Genes probably play a part. Others have experienced childhood abuse or trauma.

Binge-eating disorder is also linked to:

What are the symptoms of binge-eating disorder?

People with binge-eating disorder might:

  • eat large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • feel out of control when they eat
  • eat rapidly during a binge
  • eat when they are not hungry
  • eat to the point of discomfort
  • eat as a way to cope with emotional distress
  • hoard food

People with binge-eating disorder are distressed by their eating behaviour and might feel:

  • ashamed
  • guilty after an eating binge
  • embarrassed by their actions (and secretive about their eating)

They might also withdraw from their usual activities and from family and friends.

People with binge-eating disorder can also experience physical symptoms, such as:

  • stomach cramps
  • bloating
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating

Binge-eating disorder is similar to bulimia nervosa in that people with both disorders are concerned about body image and consume large amounts of food.

However, unlike bulimia nervosa, people with binge-eating disorder do not take extreme steps to lose weight every time they binge (such as forced vomiting, laxatives and excessive exercise). As a result, their weight might fluctuate, or they might be overweight or obese.

When should I see a doctor?

It is important to see a doctor as soon as you suspect that you or someone else has binge-eating disorder. A doctor can refer you to a specialist in eating disorders such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is binge-eating disorder diagnosed?

A doctor will do a mental health assessment and ask about the pattern of eating, and the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with it.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is binge-eating disorder treated?

The best treatment for binge-eating disorder is long-term psychological therapy. Exercise and managing stress are also important to recovery.

Resources and support

If you, or someone you know, thinks they might have binge-eating disorder, contact the following organisations for support, information and counselling:

Lists of mental support services can be found on the healthdirect, Department of Health and Mental Health Australia websites.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Binge eating disorder

Unlike those with bulimia nervosa, a person with binge eating disorder will not use compensatory behaviours, such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising after binge eating

Read more on NEDC - National Eating Disorders Collaboration website

Binge eating disorder - Butterfly Foundation

Binge Eating Disorder is a serious mental illness characterised by regular episodes of binge eating. Click for a fact sheet.

Read more on Butterfly Foundation website

Binge eating disorder - Better Health Channel

Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health condition. It affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds, and is the most common eating disorder in Australia. You can recover from binge eating disorder with the right help and commitment.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

What Is Binge Eating Disorder? | Eating Disorders Victoria

Binge eating disorder is a psychological illness characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food. Find out more about binge eating today.

Read more on Eating Disorders Victoria website

Learn About Binge Eating Disorder | How Far Is Too Far?

BED (Binge Eating Disorder) is a psychological illness that was only recently officially recognised as an eating disorder

Read more on Eating Disorders Victoria website

What is binge eating disorder? | Eating disorders | ReachOut Australia

There are signs that indicate someone might have binge eating disorder, as well as a number of ways to get help.

Read more on website

Disordered Eating & Dieting

Disordered eating can include behaviours that reflect many but not all of the symptoms of feeding and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or other specified feeding and eating disorders (OSFED)

Read more on NEDC - National Eating Disorders Collaboration website

Eating Disorders in Australia

Eating disorders and disordered eating together are estimated to affect over 16% of the Australian population

Read more on NEDC - National Eating Disorders Collaboration website

Eating disorders - Finding North

What's an eating disorder? What are the signs and symptoms? How is it diagnosed and are there any treatments for it?

Read more on Finding North website

Learn About Bulimia Nervosa | How Far Is Too Far?

Bulimia nervosa is a serious mental illness, not a lifestyle choice People with bulimia nervosa binge eat, then rid themselves of the extra calories by methods such as vomiting or over-exercising It can be hard to tell if someone has bulimia as they are often a normal weight and will go to great lengths to hide behaviours Most people with bulimia nervosa are treated outside of hospital People with bulimia engage in repeated binge eating episodes followed by what’s known as “compensatory behaviours” to get rid of the extra calories

Read more on Eating Disorders Victoria website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.