What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder with a lifetime prevalence of 1.5% in the general population. Prevalence of BED is however notably higher among patients with overweight or obesity. Despite this, there exists a low level of public and health care professional awareness that BED even exists.
In 2013, BED was officially recognized as a distinct eating disorder in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The characteristic eating behaviours were in fact first described in 1959 by the psychiatrist Dr. Albert Stunkard who noted a pattern of binge-eating in patients with obesity that lacked the compensatory behaviours to counteract its weight-gaining effects as seen in Bulimia Nervosa.
The disorder is characterized by a compulsive feeling to overeat and a loss of control over eating as well. While the quantity of food has been a defining criterion for the diagnosis of BED with the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the most recent ICD-11 diagnostic criteria for BED does not require an objectively large quantity of food for diagnosis.
Commonly identified features can include:
- history of trauma
- history of multiple unsuccessful diet attempts
- compulsively thinking about binge eating in advance
- feeling a loss of control during a binge eating episode
- feeling guilty after a binge eating episode
- binge eating in secret
Why is Binge Eating Disorder so Important to Diagnose?
Binge eating disorder will intersect both medicine and psychiatry but be missed by both specialties at the same time.
In Medicine: The lifetime prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the general population is ~4%. The lifetime prevalence of type 2 diabetes in BED is 34%.
In Psychiatry: BED travels with multiple other psychiatric disorders and can make other psychiatric disorders difficult to treat. Among patients with BED, the prevalence of anxiety is 65%, depression is 32% and ADHD is 20%
Medicine clinicians should be considering BED when they encounter early onset type 2 diabetes or a patient that has type 2 diabetes that is difficult to control.
Psychiatry clinicians should be considering BED when a patient’s psychiatric condition is not getting better and they are gaining weight—it might not be the psychiatric medications, but rather BED.
Diagnosing BED is important. If you think you have BED, go and talk to your doctor and get a referral letter to us because it is also very treatable or contact us today!