The fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the DSM-V – was released May 22. The DSM is the manual mental health professionals in the United States use to classify patients who demonstrate characteristics of certain mental health disorders.** Binge eating disorder, which is defined as “a condition involving compulsive, out-of-control episodes of eating followed by deep shame, guilt and depression,” will be one of the classifications introduced in the newest edition of the DSM.*
Binge eating disorder is characterized by frequent overeating – at least once a week for three months – combined with a lack of control, intense feelings of distress and three or more of the following behaviors:***
— eating more rapidly than normal;
— eating until feeling uncomfortably full;
— eating large amounts of food even when not feeling physically hungry;
— eating alone because of feelings of embarrassment stemming from how much one eats; and
— feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed or guilty after eating.
Affecting more than 8.5 million Americans, binge eating disorder is the country’s most prevalent eating disorder and certainly warrants this long-awaited recognition as a legitimate mental disorder.* Compared to disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder is unique in both its triggers and its overwhelming presence among the male population. According to Harvard University research, more than 40 percent of binge eaters are male,* whereas, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, males comprise only 10-15 percent of those struggling with either anorexia or bulimia.**** Interestingly, binge eating disorder has a tendency to develop in middle age and beyond, when retirement, care-giving, widowhood and other midlife stresses can surface.* Binge eating disorder is also dangerous due to its common medical comorbidities, like extreme obesity, increased risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.*
In addition to an enhanced understanding of binge eating disorder among the general population, the inclusion of this disorder in the DSM-V has the potential to improve access to targeted care for those individuals struggling with the disorder. Because the DSM has not previously granted binge eating disorder its own classification, healthcare professionals have diagnosed patients demonstrating symptoms parallel to those of binge eating disorder with “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS).* Mental healthcare professionals are hopeful that inclusion in the DSM will lead to a more accurate diagnosis of binge eating disorder and as a result, more appropriate treatment availability for those struggling with the disorder, rather than misguided referrals to weight-loss programs or clinics.*
Eating disorders treatment centers across the country are likely to adjust their programs and treatment options to provide treatment for individuals struggling with binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder treatment often includes cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapeutic intervention that helps patients identify underlying causes for their binge eating and ultimately learn new eating habits.* Eating Recovery Center and your local treatment center can be helpful resources if you have questions about this eating disorder and the available treatment options.
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