Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is an eating disorder and a serious mental health condition. It is classified by reoccurring episodes of binge eating where a large quantity of food is consumed in a relatively short period of time – more than would be considered a normal amount to eat in one sitting by a person in similar circumstances e.g. at home, alone. Feelings of self disgust, guilt, embarrassment and shame often follow. The individual feels a lack of control with food and continues to eat regardless of feeling full. Often the binging episode occurs in private and occurs at least once per week for three or more months. Many of these individuals have poor body image and feel as though food controls their lives.
Over eating is extremely common in Australia but frequent episodes of binge eating is far less common and has far more negative health implications – both physical and psychological.
The addition of BED to the DSM-5 eating disorder category is intended to raise awareness of the difference between over eating and binge eating – see below.
Diagnosis and the DSM-5
The characteristics of BED are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual provides diagnostic criteria for a range of mental disorders, including eating disorders. They are currently up to the fifth edition, making it the DSM-5. In previous editions of the DSM BED was grouped in the category ‘Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified’ in the appendix. Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) applied to people who had many characteristics of one or more eating disorders but did not meet all of the criteria to diagnose one. In this sense many people did not take BED as seriously as other eating disorders. Fortunately the DSM-5 has broadened the diagnostic criteria of the existing eating disorders and has recognised BED as an eating disorder in its own.
What are the health concerns – social and physical implications?
Bing eating episodes often involve consumption of non nutritive foods that are normally high in added sugars and/ or fats e.g. chocolate, lollies, ice cream. Unfortunately this behaviour exposes the person to increased risk of lifestyle related disease such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, dental decay and so on. This is even more the case if the individual is overweight. Then there are the social complications. I have had people tell me that food consumes basically all of their thoughts and that it has got to the point where they do not attend social outings or events anymore. Many people will not eat in public at all and will eat their lunches at home. These actions isolate the person even more and have further detrimental effects on their mental health.
What to do if you’re concerned about your eating behaviours
This is a serious matter and is often extremely difficult to resolve alone. If you are concerned about your eating behaviours, it is best to discuss this with your GP and seek the help of a mental health professional and dietitian to get you back on track. This disorder is often very embarrassing for many people to discuss but this need not be a concern when speaking with dietitians, psychologists and doctors. Health professionals have your best interests at heart, have seen these conditions before and will offer a non judgmental environment full of support.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!