Compulsive Eating Help & Treatment
During this evaluation, a mental health professional will talk to you about your eating habits and discuss your thoughts and feelings around the subject of food and eating.
As well as a psychological evaluation, a physical exam will also need to be carried out to check for any physical health risks caused by overeating.
What are the Medical & Physical Health Risks Caused by Compulsive Eating Disorder?
The most obvious concern when someone has a compulsive eating disorder is weight. When someone consumes a lot of calories as is normally the case when someone has a compulsive eating disorder, they typically have a higher BMI. (1)
Some people who overeat try to compensate for the higher calorie intake by obsessively exercising or vomiting immediately after eating.
While these behaviours are also concerning, they are more linked to a different eating disorder known as bulimia, which has a different range of health concerns than compulsive eating.
Some health risks associated with compulsive eating are:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnoea
- High blood pressure
As well as this, overweight patients are far more likely to suffer from other health conditions such as general aches and pains and mobility issues. (2)
Below are some of the treatments for compulsive eating:
1. Treatment for compulsive eating
The main objective of treatment of a compulsive eating disorder is to manage the desire to binge eat.
This is most commonly achieved through therapy that will tackle the root cause of the compulsive eating disorder and address the common emotions that are often associated with it such as:
By learning how to control your emotions, you can overcome your binge eating and tackle the negative emotions that come with it.
You have a better chance of overcoming a compulsive eating disorder if you use both medication and behavioural therapy treatments.
2. Medications for compulsive eating
Studies have shown that a drug traditionally used for ADHD, Lisdexamfetamine, has been successful in treating moderate-to-severe binge eating disorder in adults. (3)
While Lisdexamfetamine has been known to cause headaches, insomnia and dry mouth – it is generally well tolerated and therefore a good solution to overcoming compulsive eating disorder if other avenues have been exhausted.
Preliminary studies also show that a medication used to treat epilepsy can also be beneficial in the treatment of obese patients with a compulsive eating disorder. Topiramate has been shown to help with impulse control problems and also help with weight. (4)
Antidepressants have also been known to help people control their binge eating impulses (5), however, trials show that when antidepressants are used to treat a binge eating disorder, little to no weight loss is reported, which can put people off going down this route to recovery as weight loss tends to be a priority for most people in treatment for compulsive eating.
4. Behavioural weight-loss programs
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you to approach certain situations with a different mind frame. Attending cognitive behavioural therapy sessions will be helpful in your recovery from a binge eating disorder as you will learn how to be kinder to yourself when using your inner voice and to change your attitude towards food.
5. Coping and support for compulsive eating
Living with a binge eating disorder can be stressful. Food tends to consume your every thought and your anxiety about food is heightened when you are in an environment where food is served.
Food is something that we all have to think about on a daily basis, so it can feel like there is no escape.
If you are living with an eating disorder, here are some helpful tips that might help you cope:
- Identify your triggers – knowing who or what makes you want to binge can help you take the necessary steps to avoid those people or situations.
- Confide in someone you trust – talking about your problems will help ease some of the burden and it is good to have someone you can turn to through your most difficult days.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone else – it can be tempting to compare your body to that of people you see on social media or in magazines. It is important to remember your own self-worth and also consider that most of the images you see in those places are photoshopped.
- Don’t replace one unhealthy eating habit with another – when you are trying to come away from binge eating, it can be tempting to find a diet to help you control your weight. However, you are trying to establish a healthy relationship with food so instead of a fad diet, try to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods instead.
- Try to take your mind off it – developing some mindfulness techniques is a great way to switch off when your mind becomes too noisy. Something gentle like yoga can be good for keeping your body active and fit while also quietening your mind and allowing you to switch off.
- Drink plenty of water – often, we may feel hungry when we are in fact thirsty. Staying hydrated will not only keep your metabolism working faster but will also help ease any cravings you have.
- Get rid of temptation – go through your kitchen and throw out junk food. It will be harder to resist it when it is sitting right there, so it’s best not to have it around at all. Also, don’t go shopping on an empty stomach because you are more likely to buy more food than is necessary if you do.
- Be more active – you don’t have to join a gym to get active. Simply taking a walk around your neighbourhood for 30 minutes a day will make a difference.
- Plan and prep your meals – meal planning and preparing your meals in advance isn’t just a timesaver, it also means you are less likely to order a takeaway or eat junk food for ease because your meal is already prepared and only needs to be heated up.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself – you will have good days and bad days. The important thing to remember is that you are taking the steps to recover from your compulsive eating disorder so be gentle with yourself as you try to adjust to this new approach to food.
Getting help for someone else
If you are worried that someone close to you is binge eating, gently let them know that you are concerned about their health and try to persuade them to see their GP.
While this will not be an easy or pleasant conversation to have, it is better to get help sooner rather than later.
It is important to remember that compulsive eating has a negative impact on a person’s mental and physical health and someone partaking in this activity needs help.
Offer to go with them to the appointment and make sure they know that you do not judge them and will support them every step of the way.
Causes of Binge Eating
There is no one root cause of binge eating, rather, it is a mixture of several factors (6) including:
- Environmental surroundings
- Overall mental health
- Cultural surroundings
Each person struggling with a binge eating disorder will have experienced a different journey to where they are with their relationship to food.
The complexity of an eating disorder is what makes therapy such an important component in treating it.
Can People be “Addicted” to Food?
The idea that people can develop an addiction to food has been controversial in the past. However, research shows that processed foods high in sugar and fat content are, in fact, addictive.
However, while addictions are usually substance-centric – meaning that it is the substance itself that causes the addiction, food addiction is more behavioural in nature. For people with a food addiction, it is more about the cycle of restricting and binging that causes the addiction. (7)
Controlling a food addiction can seem more difficult because the usual treatment for addiction is to abstain from the substance that you are addicted to, however, when you are addicted to food, you need to learn to control your urge to overdo it on a daily basis.
How Can I Control Compulsive Eating?
The first thing to do when you are trying to take control of your compulsive eating is to seek help. You are more likely to stick to a plan if someone is there to hold you accountable.
Your GP will have information that will be able to help you, and they will refer you to have a psychological evaluation to get to the emotional cause of your binge eating.
While it may seem like you have spiralled out of control, it is important to remember that it is not too late to fix it and get yourself in a healthy place both mentally and physically.
Get Help Today
If you would like more information and want to speak to one of our friendly addiction experts, we are ready to take your call now.
We are available 24 hours a day and can offer free and impartial advice to help you with any questions you have about addiction.
Call us today on 0800 088 66 86.
 Sage Journals – When food becomes an obsession: Overweight is related to food-related obsessive-compulsive behaviour – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1359105316687632
 American Journal of Public Health – Effects of being overweight – https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.73.2.171
 National Library of Medicine – Lisdexamfetamine: A Review in Binge Eating Disorder – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29134566/
 National Library of Medicine – Treatment of obese patients with binge eating disorder using topiramate: a review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2714287/
 National Library of Medicine – Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4523274/
 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Symptoms & Causes of Binge Eating Disorder – https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes
 National Library of Medicine – What Is the Evidence for “Food Addiction?” A Systematic Review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5946262/