Breaking the Stigma: Understanding Binge Eating Disorder

March 28, 2024

What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?

Binge eating disorder (BED) stands out as the most prevalent eating disorder in the United States, surpassing the combined prevalence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (NIMH). Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of uncontrollable eating, involving the consumption of large quantities of food, typically done rapidly and in secrecy. Unlike other eating disorders, individuals with binge eating disorder do not engage in compensatory behaviors, such as vomiting or excessive exercise, to counteract binge eating episodes.

Warning signs in yourself and others

  • Shift in eating patterns, including secrecy: Have you noticed a change in eating habits? Dieting, often seen as a solution, can contribute to maintaining the binge eating cycle. Avoidance of certain foods may lead to feelings of guilt and shame, triggering binge episodes. Shame associated with eating behavior may cause the individual to develop secretive habits, such as purchasing and eating food alone, or concealing wrappers.
  • Talk around food: Has conversation about food or weight changed? Individuals with binge eating disorder may become fixated on these topics or, conversely, avoid discussing them altogether. Recognizing shifts in thoughts or behaviors is important.
  • Mood changes, shame, and guilt: Has there been a change in mood or withdrawal from family, friends and activities? Binge eating can be triggered by shifts in mood, with food serving as a temporary coping mechanism. After a binge, individuals experience intense emotional distress, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, increased depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. While discussing someone’s eating habits may feel intrusive, approaching the conversation with genuine concern, citing observed behaviors in a non-judgmental and caring manner, can facilitate a smoother discussion.
  • Meal skipping or restriction: Are they missing meals more often? Some may skip meals in an attempt to lose weight or compensate for a binge, which can exacerbate vulnerability to further episodes.

Who struggles with binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background. Before making assumptions about someone, remember that eating disorders do not discriminate. This is critical to reducing stigma and creating a supportive environment. Seeking professional help from those trained to treat binge eating disorder is the best way to find recovery from binge eating disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with BED, reaching out to mental health professionals or support groups can be a vital step toward recovery.

How can we change the conversation?

It’s no secret that all eating disorders come with societal stigma, and binge eating disorder is no exception. How can we change the conversation around binge eating disorders to be more supportive?

Increase awareness through education

If you think your loved one may have binge eating disorder, increase your knowledge to help dispel any myths and misconceptions that you may have yourself or that you may encounter. Additionally, listen to anyone in your life with lived experience who may be comfortable talking about their experience.

Encourage compassion through conversation

Fostering open and non-judgmental dialogues about binge eating disorder can create a more supportive and empathetic environment. Using person-first language emphasizes the individual over the disorder, an example being “a person with binge eating disorder” instead of “a binge eater.” Using stigmatizing terms and stereotypes that contribute to shame and judgement may push individuals away from asking for help. Compassionate conversations can help to establish supportive environments and safe spaces, which is imperative to recovery.

Normalize seeking help through support

Everyone with an eating disorder deserves help. Changing the conversation around binge eating disorder to be more supportive and less stigmatizing involves fostering understanding, empathy, and awareness.

Reaching out for support is a sign of strength, and there is always hope on the path to recovery. Seeking out those who have recovered as inspiration and motivation to share their story can also be helpful on this journey.

At Monte Nido & Affiliates, we recently expanded access to our specialty binge eating disorder virtual treatment program in 28 states to treat binge eating disorder, emotional eating, and compulsive overeating. The intensive outpatient program utilizes a variety of therapeutic, nutritional and medical approaches, and staff are trained to treat all clients with a body neutral approach to behavior change. To see if the program is available in your state, click here.

If you or someone you love may be struggling with an eating disorder, help is out there. If you’re interested in learning more about our programs at Monte Nido & Affiliates, please visit or email to connect with a member of our Admissions Team.

Monte Nido & Affiliates delivers clinically comprehensive, research-backed treatment to adults and adolescents with eating and co-occurring disorders, within a healing environment. As a Miami, FL-based company, Monte Nido & Affiliates has over 50 programs, offering a full continuum of care. Founded in 1996, Monte Nido & Affiliates specializes in the treatment of eating disorders for all genders and includes four distinct clinical programs: Monte Nido, Walden Behavioral Care, Clementine, and Rosewood Centers. For over two decades, our tenured and expert staff — which includes recovered professionals — has delivered treatment that leads to full recovery. For more information, please visit: