New mental illnesses - 3: Binge eating disorder

New mental illnesses – 3: Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by eating large amounts of food within a comparatively shorter time span. Food consumption in BED is not fueled by hunger but by an uncontrollable urge to eat until one is uncomfortably full. It is different from other eating disorders as it is usually not associated with purging.

BED is the most common eating disorder in the United States. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), about 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. and 2.8 percent of people aged 18 years or above have BED in their lifetime. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists it as a diagnosable eating disorder.

Binge eating has many side effects. Obesity may just be one of them, but it has not been confirmed by researchers yet. The third part of the series ‘New mental illnesses’ focuses on binge eating as it is more often overlooked by people. Notably, BED may lead to other mental illnesses as well.

Diagnosis of BED

The DSM-5 has fixed the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder. They are:

  1. Repeated episodes of binge eating for a considerable amount of time. A binge eating episode is characterized by both of the following:
    • Eating an amount of food which is larger than what most people would eat in that time period under same circumstances.
    • Having no control over eating during the episode
  2. A binge eating episode is usually associated with at least three of the following:
    • Eating very quickly, which is not normal.
    • Eating too much, often until feeling uncomfortably full.
    • Eating large quantities of food when not hungry physically.
    • Often eating alone for not getting embarrassed by the amount of food.
    • Feeling depressed or extremely guilty after the episode of eating.
  3. Having a marked distress for binge eating.
  4. The binge eating usually occurs at least once a week for a period of 3 months.
  5. The binge eating does not include inappropriate compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging) as in case of bulimia nervosa. BED does not occur exclusively during bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.

Physical and psychological effects of BED

Binge eating disorder can often be linked to depression, anxiety, guilt and shame. Experiencing comorbid conditions, which can be physical and/or psychological, is also not uncommon.

Physical effects: The link of BED with obesity is not confirmed yet. Most obese people are not affected by BED. However, two-thirds of BED-affected persons are obese. BED may lead to high blood pressure, type-II diabetes, gall bladder problems, restlessness and cardiovascular disease.

Psychological effects: People with BED often feel shame and guilt over their eating behaviors. They report a lower quality of life than normal people. This disorder is often found to be associated with depression and higher levels of anxiety.

Treatment for BED

Evidence-based treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and pharmacotherapy can be used to treat BED. Risks, benefits and alternatives must be evaluated while treating this disorder. It is important that treatment is sought from a trained medical professional after thorough evaluation of symptoms and side effects.

Road to recovery

It is important to get BED treated as soon as possible because the disorder can lead to other serious mental illnesses. It is advisable to consult a mental health counselor in Florida as the problem is more psychological in nature than physical.

To know about one of the best recovery options for BED and/or other mental disorder treatment in Florida, contact the Florida Mental Health Helpline. You may chat online with our counselors or call our 24/7 helpline number at (866) 846-5588 for detailed information about available treatments in Florida.

Read the other articles of the series “New mental illnesses:”

  1. Hypersex disorder
  2. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
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