Is Binge Eating a Mental Health Disorder?

Is Binge Eating a Mental Health Disorder?

Woman wearing yellow sweater sits with a therapist.

If you’re someone who binge eats, you might be thinking, “I feel like I can’t control myself around food and I don’t know why.”

And if you love someone who binge eats, maybe you’re thinking, “Sounds like a problem with a simple solution to me. Forget worrying about your mental health. Just stop eating so much.”

So, what’s the truth about binge eating and mental health disorders? And why does the distinction even matter? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Binge Eating and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

At first glance, binge eating looks like a self-control problem: It’s so good I can’t stop. I’m bored, so I’ll keep eating. I could stop, but why should I?

 These assumptions may ring especially true if you’re looking from the outside in.

But the reality is that, as WebMD explains, binge eating is “a complex condition that affects the brain and then the body.” (1)

Here’s how this might look in action:

 Sometimes I am worried, so I eat to distract myself. Other times, I feel overwhelmed, so I eat for comfort. And on some days, I feel sad, so I eat to cheer myself up.

 And for a moment, food does the trick. I feel better. Of course I do! I have energy running through my veins and giving me literal and metaphorical life! But then . . .

 Guilt sets in. I regret overeating. I vow to make different choices in the future. I do my very best to eat less than usual in order to make up for my binge. And for a moment, rigidity does the trick. I feel in control and successful. But then . . .

 I’m hungry. Like really hungry. So I binge again.

 And so, the cycle of negative emotions and overeating continues, fueled by each participating member—the mind and the body. Binge eating cannot continue without the help of a mental health issue. They are inextricably linked.

Binge Eating and Mental Health: Why Making the Connection Matters

If we reduce binge eating to a physical problem, we focus only on the symptom of overeating. We completely miss the cause. When a person binges, she does so because a deeper problem exists. And that problem must be addressed before real progress can be made.

Because you know what’s better than “proven” diets or willpower? Therapy and a healthy relationship with food and body.

A therapist and eating disorder specialized dietitian can help you sort through the mental fog and find your way toward healing and wholeness. You might especially benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, where you’ll identify negative thoughts that trigger a binge and learn more positive ways to cope.

Making the connection between binge eating and mental health is the best way to break the cycle for good.

If you’re looking for a therapist who can help you with binge eating, give us a call today at 562-434-6007 or fill out our contact form.




  1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder/features/binge-eating-disorder-mental-health