Binge Eating Disorder and Diabetes (Part 2)

I’d like to start off by thanking those people who posted comments and questions about binge eating disorder (BED) on my previous blog entry ("Binge Eating Disorder and Diabetes [Part 1]") over the last week. Some of you have shared that you have BED, while others are perhaps questioning the possibility. Arming yourself with facts about BED can help you and your health-care team determine whether you have this disorder and, if so, how to get the right treatment.


So, what causes BED? Well, as with many conditions, there’s probably no one single cause, but here are some likely culprits:

  • Psychological factors: The study I mentioned last week revealed that people with BED are more likely to have psychological issues, such as a history of depression, substance abuse, or emotional problems. In fact, it’s speculated that at least half of those with BED have depression or a history of depression.
  • Frequent dieting: While not a factor for everyone, researchers think that people who have frequently gone on (and off) diets or who have followed overly restrictive eating plans are more prone to having BED, along with other eating disorders, such as bulimia.
  • Lack of adequate coping skills: People with BED often feel a lack of control in their lives, and may be unable to handle certain emotions, such as anger, stress, or boredom. One way of dealing with emotions is to overeat. Impulsive behavior may be seen in someone with BED, as well.
  • Genetics and biological makeup: It’s possible that brain chemistry and metabolism can influence eating behaviors. And there may be a tendency for eating disorders to run in the family.

While the exact cause or causes of BED are a little murky, what we do know is that someone with BED is more likely to be overweight or obese, which in turn raises the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, and possibly certain types of cancer. Interestingly, a few studies have found that BED may be more common in people who already have Type 2 diabetes (ranging anywhere from 2.5% to 26%) than in to people who don’t. People with Type 2 diabetes and BED tend to be younger, have a higher body-mass index (BMI), and have more depression than in those without BED. And BED is more common in women with diabetes than in men with diabetes.

If you think you may have BED (or any kind of eating disorder), it’s important to seek medical help. Aside from the possible health consequences, you may end up missing more days from work or school, avoiding friends and social activities, and having difficulty enjoying life overall.

Treatment of BED focuses on treating the eating disorder first and losing weight, if needed, second. Concurrent psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety, must be addressed as well. There are several possible forms of treatment, including cognitive behavioral therapy that centers on problem-solving skills and learning healthy habits; psychotherapy; and medication (including use of antidepressants, appetite suppressants, and antiseizure drugs). Weight loss may not be recommended until the BED is treated, unless it’s medically supervised. Very-low-calorie diets can actually trigger BED.

To wrap up, if you think you may have BED, talk to your health-care provider. He or she should be able to refer you to a mental health care provider and/or an appropriate eating disorder treatment program.

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  • Sherry Oaks

    I have had insulin dependent diabetes for 32 years. I have almost a daily problem with binge eating. I will eat until I feel like I’m going to explode and feel sick. I in turn take large amounts of insulin with my pump to bring my sugar down. I tend to get into trouble with high and very low blood sugars. I work full-time, take care of my disabled husband. I go to the nursing home daily to see my mother and mother-in-law who both have alzheimers. I always put myself on the back burner. I don’t know what to do. I stay depressed and if I say anything to my doctor she says don’t buy the sweets and bring them into the house. The majority of the food I binge eat on is sweets. It is easier said than done. I am 47 years old, 5 feet 6″ tall and way around 175. I am used to being around 145-150. I need help and don’t know what to do. I feel like I am killing myself. I can’t afford to take off work to get treatment. I am in nursing and know better. I can’t stop. I need help. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

    God Bless,
    Sherry Oaks

  • acampbell

    Hi Sherry,

    I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. You certainly have a lot on your shoulders. I would suggest that you ask your physician for a referral to a mental health specialist, or, if she won’t give you one, make an appointment for one on your own. Your local hospital or clinic should be able to provide you with the name of a therapist. You can also contact the National Eating Disorder Association at (800) 931-2237. Their Web site is Talk to your boss or supervisor about possible options for getting time off from work to get help, too. Please seek help for yourself.

  • Sarah

    I don’t know if you will read this, but I really hope you get my message.
    I’m 22 and I suffer from BED too. I always thought it’s my fault and I have to get a grip and get control over what I’m eating and I used to beat myself up. But then it started to get really scary and I started throwing up afterwards because I felt so disgusted by all the food I ate. So I went to my doctor and he was really kind and understanding and he send me to a psychiatric center.
    So now I am in therapie since almost 6 months. It’s not over yet, and it will take a long time…but at least I don’t feel as hopeless as I did when I was all alone. And I know that it will get better some day.
    Please go and get help! I know it’s hard but you need to do this to your self. You have needs to, and because you can’t express those needs and always put others first, you start to eat, to fullfill your needs.
    I hope my English isn’t as bad…I’m actually from Germany. ūüôā
    Well I wish you all the best in the world…Take yourself serious and get help!

  • Crystal

    Hi, I am 43 years old and have type 1 since i was 10 years old. My life is really stressful right now and i have depression too. When i get depressed i turn to food. My blood sugar is out of whack it goes up then it goes down. I am on 3 types of insulin. i try and talk to my dr about it but all they tell me is to quit eating so much. I even have moments when my husband has to make me eat. Then after i eat i hate myself. I get so tired sometimes that i just want to give up. But i can’t cuz i’m raising my grandkids and i’m taking care of my dad and husband. I cant keep a job cuz i am sick alot. All my dr wants to do is give me more insulin. I’m at the point now that i don’t know what to do. I know that i’m killing myself but i don’t have no one who will listen. I know that i got to get my stress level down but just how do u do that when there is no one to help. Does any one have any suggestions? I am open to anything. i need help but i don’t know what to do.

  • acampbell

    Hi Crystal,

    I’m sorry for all that you’re dealing with right now. You certainly have a lot on your plate! Does your local hospital have a diabetes department? I’m wondering if you could make an appointment with a diabetes educator to review your issues. The educator may be able to work with your doctor regarding your diabetes management. The other option might be to find an endocrinologist (or another endocrinologist, if you’re currently working with one) who can better help you with your diabetes. He or she can also link you with behavioral health to help you better cope with your stress. Finally, consider contacting the National Eating Disorders Association at 800-931-2237 or at They are not a diabetes-specific organization, but they can provide you with resources and local experts in your area to work with you. The good news is that there are a lot of people who can help you, but you’ll need to do a little research and find out what resources are available in your community.

  • B

    I have had type 1 for 23 years. My sister has had it for 24 and my oldest brother has had it for 22. One of our other brothers was diagnosed with type 1.5 a few months ago. Dad has type 2 and our Mom and other sister is pre-diabetic. Our only sibling “diabetes-free” has a son with type 1, so we have faced many challenges as a family due to diabetes. My sister had diabulimia wherein she wouldn’t take insulin so she could lose weight. My oldest brother struggles with over eating and is depressed and has obesity. Dad also eats a ton and we probably all feel an unhealthy focus on food. I’m finally realizing that I probably have BED. I try so hard to eat well and I always take my insulin (always, always!) but upon reading through the symptoms of BED I think that is a real possibility for me–especially given the fact that many in my family have also struggled with eating disorders or at least “disordered eating.” We are people of faith, but diabetes is certainly a difficult condition to face gracefully! I believe that since it REQUIRES you to focus on your food it in and of itself IS a form of an eating disorder. And since your results are not always predictable (sometimes very negative results with high blood sugars) it has the ability to create a lose-lose mentality. It’s a crazy psychological twist. I’m contemplating what I need to do. My sister was fortunate to have FIVE healthy children all during type 1, and I have been blessed with 1 beautiful child so far. I want more, so I am very motivated to understand my body and my emotions so that I can make healthy changes to last a lifetime. I enjoy life too much to keep doing to same less-than-effective habits! But, where to start…?

  • B

    PS sorry for any type-os or grammatical errors!

  • B

    Last comment for now, I promise! I wanted to say that because with diabetes we have to focus on food to stay healthy, and since we don’t always have positive outcomes even when we do the healthy things, there is a natural inclination to turn to food for comfort…or perhaps out of spite? (cutting off your nose to spite your face.) How can I change that to have a more healthy attitude given the fact that I naturally HAVE to focus on food? Wow, that’s hard!

  • acampbell

    Hi B,

    Thanks for sharing your history. While it can be difficult to face, acknowledging that you may have an eating disorder is the first step to helping yourself. There’s evidence that people with Type 1 diabetes are more prone to eating disorders than people without diabetes, and some of that may certainly be due to the eating regimen that people are advised to follow. The good news is that you recognize that you have some issues to deal with, and it sounds like you want to have a healthier attitude towards food and eating. And it can be done, but I strongly encourage you to seek help from a health-care professional or program that specializes in eating disorders. Contact the National Eating Disorders Association at or by calling (800) 931-2237. Help is out there for you!

  • Ann Samborski

    I recommend Overeaters Anonymous (OA)to anyone who feels they have a problem with food, including people with BED, anorexia or bullimia. It is a 12-step program for people with eating issues. OA members include atheists, agnostics as well as people of many different religions.

  • Cathy Steele


    Diabetes (Insulin Dependant) and Binge eating are a deadly combination. Now, add depression to the mix; I find myself now unable to effectively deal with all three!!!! To add to the mix, I now have macular edema and am loosing my eye sight (complication of the Diabetes)!!!!

    I am more than struggling – add the loss of my parents, and some fincial difficulty.

    I am seeking any assistance YOU may provide. I have done many outpatient programsl but continue to be overwhelmed. I see a Psychiatrist, Endocrinologist with the Diabetic Team (I have found they lack sensitivity and knowledgeable regarding the Eating Disorder issue),Ophthalologist and Social Worker. I have also done some outpatient easting disorder workshops. I now have had to include the Institute for the Blind.

    Although I am Canadian, I am looking for more intense treatment – residential, inpatient treatment. Can you be of any assistance – I am fairly resourceful as I am a Registered Nurse; I feel like I have exhausted my resources. I feel pretty alone and am exhausted.

    PLEASE, can you help??

  • acampbell

    Hi Cathy,

    Please see my reply to your response from last week (it’s under part 1 of this posting). I’d suggest you contact the two resources that I listed in my reply and hopefully they can provide you with guidance for locating a more intensive program.

  • Lonita

    Hi. This is gonna sound really stupid but I am 61 and 7 yrs ago had Gastric Bypass. I lost weight and reached my goal in just over a year. I used to weigh 264 before WLS. But I have laxed on the diet part mostly because I got tired of my focus of food all the time and just wanted to enjoy life. I get depressed and have anxiety. I have Osteo and am in pain most of the time from that and other issues, I am Pre-Diabetic which I understand is the same as Diabetes 2. I keep trying to cut back on my carbs but find myself binging ever couple of days or so. Then I feel horrible and hate myself. I know what I should be doing and am a Nutritionist Life Coach. See I told you this would sound stupid. I get no support from hubby or daughter accept for them to say, go back to the beginning. You know how to do it, so if you are not happy with yourself, change it!! I sure wish it was that easy. There is so much more to my story but I haven’t the room here and I’m sure you all don’t want to hear all my woes. It’s LIFE right? Anyway, my Dr. is no help to me and I’m really feeling STUCK. Any suggestions or help? Thanks ahead of time and I have enjoyed reading this. I just found this tonight when I was on the forum for

  • acampbell

    Hi Lonita,

    I’m sorry that you’re struggling. You’re certainly going through a lot, and it seems like you’re not getting the support and help that you need. (And it doesn’t sound stupid at all!) Have you looked into any support groups or programs for binge eating disorder (or eating disorders, in general) in your community? What about behavioral health providers who perhaps specialize in this area? See what might be available. If you’re coming up empty, contact the Binge Eating Disorder Association. You can find out more information about them at and there is a “search for providers” feature that could be of some help, too. Another Web site to visit is Eating Disorder Hope at