How Emotions Lead to Binge Eating

How emotions lead to binge eating

Filed Under: Binge Eating

4 March 2022 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Difficult emotions hurt. Nobody likes to feel hurt. We will all experience pain at some point in our lives. Our natural human reaction is to avoid pain. As humans, we will try to do what we can to avoid pain. Every one of us will experience loss, rejection, failure and anger. There is a Buddhist saying that “Pain is inevitable”. Most of us have been taught to deny our feelings and “get on with it” or to distract ourselves from our feelings. Our culture emphasises feeling “positive” all the time, we are told that we need to control our emotions and that feeling negative is wrong, feeling scared or vulnerable is weak. No wonder our instinctive reaction to painful emotions is to bolt. Binge eating is one of the ways we bolt from our feelings. A binge can be a balm that soothes, a distraction or a numbing or a way to go unconscious from difficult emotions.

How emotions lead to binge eating

There is so much shame and guilt attached to binge eating that we mostly see it as a failure, a lack of control. Instead a more compassionate way of viewing binge eating is as a coping tool and to recognise that it has provided comfort and relief in difficult situations.

Common emotions that trigger binges:


When our boundaries have been crossed, we experience anger. Most of us have difficulty expressing anger and one way to cope is to stuff it down with food. The underlying need when we are experiencing anger could be to speak up and be heard. Binge eating in response to anger can be a way of acting out.

Where in my life do, I need to create boundaries?
In what situations and with who do I need to find the courage to speak up?


When we don’t meet our basic needs (sleep, regular meals, stress relief)  and other deeper needs (safety, variety, connection, solitude, creativity) dealing with difficult emotions can be very challenging. A binge can be a way to rebel against people-pleasing, meeting everyone’s needs except our own. It could be a way we give ourselves time alone.

Where in my life am, I finding it hard to say no?
Where in my life do, I need to set some limits?

Sadness and Loneliness

Humans are wired for connection and belonging. Feelings of loss and isolation are difficult to process. A binge becomes a way to dissociate and go unconscious from these emotions, the binge becomes a companion, it provides relief from reality.

How might binge eating be serving me?
How has binge eating provided me with relief?
How has binge eating disconnected me from others?


A sense of meaninglessness or lack of purpose can lead to boredom. Binge eating creates a diversion and distraction. Sometimes it even creates another problem – a purpose – that needs to be dealt with. Binge eating could also be the scapegoat – it’s much easier to blame binge eating than deal with underlying emotions and lack of meaning.

Who would you be without binge eating?
How can I bring purpose and meaning into my life?

Here are more examples of emotional triggers, feeling:

Unsafe, excluded, inadequate, trapped, powerless, worthless, helpless, uncared for, ashamed and unimportant.

Binge eating is a way we get our own attention, it’s a cry for help. In order to deal with binge eating, we need to find different ways to deal with our emotional pain. Stopping may feel scary, as if we are removing a coping mechanism because it could be the way you get through the day. Trying to deal with binge eating by stopping is most likely going to trigger more binge eating. If binge eating has been your emotional life-boat when in distress, it will most likely be your default coping tool. If you have a history of trauma, it is advisable to work with a trauma therapist to address trauma-related binge eating.

The first step to dealing with binge eating is awareness of the triggers and your unmet needs. Understanding and accepting it’s the way we cope.  It’s also important to remove the judgement and shame around binge eating and replace it with compassion and curiosity.

When bingeing has been the way to zone out and go unconscious from distress, it takes huge amounts of patience and trust to establish alternative coping tools.

In the next post, I will be sharing some ways to deal with binge eating.

May you find ways to meet your true needs.
May you learn to treat yourself with compassion.
May you be free from suffering.

Wishing you well,

P.S. Here are two ways to work with me:

  1. Book a free 30-minute mini-session and let’s explore what is in your way from experiencing peace and freedom with food.
  2. Sign up for Food Freedom: An 8 Week Mindful & Intuitive Eating Journey to feeling free with food.

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Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating