Hey guys! Binge Eating Disorder is becoming more prominent in discussions surrounding obesity, dieting and whether (how) our society of body-judgement is implicated in what is now the most prominent eating disorder. I asked Marsha Hudnall to give us the basics on BED to help us frame this complex issue. We’d love to hear from you in the comments – what are your initial thoughts about BED after reading the below? If you subscribe to Susan Bordo’s belief that “disorders” are really a manifestation of society’s anxieties, what does that say about our culture? Enough from me, let’s hear from the actual expert, Marsha Hudnall!
What is binge eating disorder?
Most people don’t realize that binge eating disorder is actually the most common eating disorder; more people struggle with it than with anorexia and bulimia combined. According to the DSM-V, set for publication in 2013, binge eating disorder is characterized by the recurrent behavioral and emotional signs listed below, occurs on average at least once a week for three months, and is accompanied by marked distress during the binge eating. Specific criteria include:
- Eating a larger amount of food than normal during a discrete period of time, e.g., any two-hour period
- Feeling a lack of control over eating during the binge episode, e.g. feeling you can’t stop eating or control what or how much you are eating
- The binge eating episodes are associated with 3 or more of the following: Eating much more rapidly than normal; Eating until feeling uncomfortably full; Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry; Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating; Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards
Although these will be the official criteria, it is important to understand that people can also have binge eating episodes that look very different. For example, someone can feel out of control and very guilty after eating a small amount of food that they don’t believe they should be eating. So whether or not you are dealing with binge eating disorder per the DSM-V, it’s a very distressing phenomenon, frequently leading to self loathing and feelings of helplessness.
How is BED different from overeating?
Binge eating disorder is not just the Thanksgiving dinner type of overeating. In fact, occasional overeating as well as emotional eating are part of normal eating. We all do it sometimes. The most important distinction between overeating and binge eating or binge eating disorder is the feeling of being out of control. A sense of loss of control lies at the core of BED. Binge eating becomes a way to cope with feelings or escape emotions, yet ironically, it ends up exacerbating uncomfortable feelings.
What does it mean that BED is now included in the DSM?
The DSM is issued by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” It serves as a diagnostic guide for healthcare professionals but a big part of its significance is that it provides a firm foundation for research, including funding, and insurance coverage for treatment. Previous to the DSM-V (the fifth edition of the DSM), BED was included as part of Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified, which represents a wide range of disordered eating behaviors. with a wide range of symptoms not always easily identified as an eating disorder. But next year, the APA will formally recognize what Feed Me, I’m Cranky and Green Mountain at Fox Run have known for years: That binge eating can be part of a very clear but complex syndrome that warrants full recognition. With the inclusion of BED as a separate eating disorder in the DSM-V, we can hope to see a growing awareness of binge eating and a birth of dedicated resources to help those who are struggling.
What is BEDA and what should we know about BEDA 2013?
The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is the place to start when looking for help. BEDA’s goal is to give everyone access to the tools they need to live with, treat, and ultimately prevent the disorder. The website includes a database of healthcare professionals who can treat binge eating disorder and support groups. The 2013 conference, March 8-10 in Bethesda, MD, will focus on treatment, research, stories of hope, and BED’s new designation in the DSM-V. What’s unique about BEDA conferences is that there are tracks for treatment professionals and individuals and families dealing with binge eating. The community of people who have a shared interest in helping binge eaters gets stronger every year and so do the opportunities to share, learn and support.
Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, is an executive board member of BEDA and co-chair of the 2013 conference committee. Marsha is the owner and VP of programming and communications of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a Vermont retreat since 1973 for women who struggle with overeating and weight.