Binge Eating Disorder: How Positive Thinking Helps

Many people with binge eating disorder feel bad about their overeating and their bodies. Learning how to change these negative thoughts into positive actions is the first step toward getting better.

Here’s a look at the methods that can help you do that.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a common treatment for binge eating disorder. Your doctor or therapist will likely suggest this therapy first. Most people with the disorder who try CBT get better. This technique can also help you if you have depression, which often happens along with bingeing.

A version called "enhanced CBT" is designed for people with eating disorders. It teaches you to recognize feelings of low self-esteem and other negative thoughts that can trigger binges.

Instead of saying:

  • "I'm a failure because I eat too much."
  • "I'll never get to my ideal weight."
  • "It's too hard to eat right."

You’ll learn to say things like:

  • "I'm a good person, and I can get my eating under control."
  • "With a little effort, I will reach a healthy weight."
  • "My therapist and my dietitian will help me create a diet I can stick with."

CBT is usually done once a week for about 20 weeks. During each session, you'll meet with a therapist alone or as part of a group.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

Therapists have long used IPT to help people with depression. Today, it's also used to treat eating disorders. IPT can help you stop binge eating and avoid setbacks. Studies find it works about as well as CBT.

IPT helps you figure out if problems at home or in your other relationships are triggering your binges. There are three phases:

  • Phase 1: You identify the problems in your personal life that make you want to overeat. For example, maybe you snack whenever you feel lonely, or after you get into a fight with your parents.
  • Phase 2: Your therapist shows you how to build better relationships.
  • Phase 3: You work to stick with the changes you've made and prevent binge relapses.

IPT is usually done once a week in a group or one on one with your therapist.

Continued

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, but instead of trying to change your negative thoughts, you accept and learn to live with them. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and yoga help you become more aware of your thoughts.

Therapists have used DBT to help people with personality disorders who have self-destructive habits. Research is still being done to see how well it works for binge eating. So far, it seems to help, and those who start the program are able to stick with it.

Guided Self-Help

If you don't have time to go to regular therapy sessions or you can't afford them, guided self-help might be an option. 

There are self-help programs that you complete all on your own. These involve involve using books, DVDs, videos, etc. 

Guided self-help programs mean that you meet with a therapist or health care professional for guidance. This professional will recommend books, computer programs, or self-help videos for you to use at home. It's up to you to put in the time and effort studying them.

One study found that research subjects with binge eating disorder who underwent a 12-week self-guided, manual-based form of cognitive-behavioral therapy had greater remission from binge eating than those receiving more traditional care, and over one-third remained well a year later.

 

More Tips to Lift Your Mood

Even with these treatments, you can slip back into your old ways of thinking from time to time. Here are some tips to help you stay positive:

  • Give yourself encouragement. Leave sticky notes around your house with inspiring messages like "You can do it!" Stick them on mirrors and other places where you'll see them every day.
  • Keep a list of 10 things you like about yourself. Whenever you get down, read the list.
  • If you have a setback, don't give yourself a hard time. Just make sure to get back on track the next day.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself.
  • Reward yourself for the gains you make. Get a massage or take a warm bubble bath, for examples.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 14, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Binge Eating Disorder Association: "What is Binge Eating Disorder?"

Brown, Tiffany A. Substance Abuse, 2012.

Cleveland Clinic: "The Psychology of Eating."

DeBar, Lynn L. Psychiatric Services, April 2011.

Drexel University: "Disordered Eating and Body Image."

Iacovino, Juliette M. Current Psychiatry Report, August 2012.

Kass, Andrea E. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, July 2014.

Murphy, Rebecca. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, September 2010.

NAMI: "Binge Eating Disorder," "Dialectical Behavior Therapy."

Safer, Debra L. Behavior Therapy, March 2010.

Society of Clinical Psychology: "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy," "Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Binge Eating Disorder."

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