Treatment

The goals for treatment of binge-eating disorder are to reduce eating binges, improve emotional well-being and, when necessary, to lose weight. Because binge eating is so entwined with shame, poor self-image, self-disgust and other negative emotions, treatment needs to address these and other psychological issues.

There are four main types of treatment for binge-eating disorder.

Psychotherapy
Psychotherapy, whether in individual or group sessions, can teach how to exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones and reduce bingeing episodes. But definitive scientific research about the benefits of psychotherapy remains lacking. Some studies do show that a few types of psychotherapy may be helpful, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. Some studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy may help a person cope better with issues that may trigger binge-eating episodes, such as negative feelings about one's body or a depressed mood. It may also give a better sense of control over behavior and eating patterns. However, cognitive behavioral therapy hasn't been shown to be helpful in reducing weight. So if people are overweight, they may need additional treatment.
  • Interpersonal therapy. Interpersonal therapy focuses on current relationships with other people, which may help reduce binge eating that's triggered by poor relationships and unhealthy communication skills. The goal is to improve interpersonal skills - relationships with others, including family, friends and colleagues.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy. This form of therapy can teach behavioral skills to help the person tolerate stress, regulate emotions and improve relationships with others, all of which can reduce the desire to binge eat.

Medication
There's no medication specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat binge-eating disorder. Research results about the effectiveness of medications to treat binge-eating disorder have been mixed. Some studies show that combining therapy with medications may be more effective than either treatment alone. But more studies are needed before drawing firm conclusions. However, some studies show that several types of medications may be helpful, including antidepressants, anticonvulsant and anti-obesity medications.