Healthcare professionals may prescribe antidepressants in addition to psychotherapy to treat binge eating disorder (BED).

BED involves recurrent episodes of overeating, with feelings of guilt or distress afterward. The condition can significantly impact a person’s physical and emotional well-being.

This article discusses the different types of antidepressants that doctors may prescribe for BED, the potential side effects of these medications, and other treatment options.

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People with eating disorders have a higher risk of suicide and health complications than people who do not have this kind of condition.

BED often occurs with other mental health conditions and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

A 2022 survey-based study suggests that the common mental health conditions in adults with BED include depression and anxiety disorders.

Researchers also found a strong link between BED and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Additionally, for people with BED, depression can lead to episodes of binge eating, which can worsen depression symptoms. The reverse is also true.

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants as part of a treatment plan for BED, especially if a person has depression or an anxiety disorder.

How they work

Antidepressants increase levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These are chemical messengers in the body that affect a person’s appetite, mood, and impulse control.

People with BED may have lower-than-typical levels of these brain chemicals, which can contribute to binge eating.

Antidepressants can help improve mood and reduce binge eating episodes in people with BED.

With other forms of treatment

It is important to note that antidepressants alone cannot cure BED. They may work best in conjunction with other treatments, such as psychotherapy.

One 2022 review found that antidepressants and stimulants were more effective than a placebo for BED.

However, the same review suggests combining psychotherapy and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) was the most effective BED treatment.

Most antidepressant-related side effects are mild and go away within a few weeks of starting the medication.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Potential side effects of SSRIs include:

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Potential side effects of SNRIs include:


There are also certain risks involved in taking antidepressants, such as:

  • Dependency: Antidepressants can cause physical dependence. People who stop taking them suddenly may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Interactions with other medications: Antidepressants can interact with other medications, including over-the-counter herbal supplements such as St. John’s Wort.
  • An increased risk of suicide: Some antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and young adults, especially when they first start taking the medication. Healthcare professionals need to monitor people closely when they start taking antidepressants.

It is important that people considering taking an antidepressant consult a healthcare professional to discuss the risks and benefits of these medications. A doctor can help develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Other treatment options for BED include:

  • Psychotherapy: This is the first-line treatment option for BED. Common approaches include:
  • Pharmacotherapy: In addition to antidepressants, doctors may prescribe other medications to help manage BED, such as antiepileptic drugs, ADHD medications (stimulants), and medications that help regulate appetite.
  • Self-help strategies: This can include keeping a food diary, learning coping skills to help manage stress and emotional triggers, practicing mindful eating, and engaging in regular physical activity.

It is best for people with BED to talk with a healthcare professional about the potential risks and benefits of antidepressants and other treatments.

Mental health resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.

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Antidepressants may help with symptoms of binge eating disorder (BED). However, they cannot cure the condition.

It is important for people to be aware of the potential risks and side effects before starting to take antidepressants for BED. A doctor can help determine if antidepressants are right for a person’s needs or if other treatments would be more suitable.