Identifying Binge-Eating Disorder

This is a fairly new eating disorder diagnostic category that was added to the DSM-V in 2013. One of the essential criteria is that a binge occurs at least once a week for a period of 3 months, within a set period of time. While many individuals may binge or eat what they perceive to be a large amount of food at any one time during a meal, a day or a week, a diagnosis of binge-eating disorder will be defined by a number of very specific criteria. In my practice over the years I have asked people what they would consider to be a binge. Some individuals think that two helpings of the main meal and/or dessert is a binge. Others think that eating a slab of chocolate is a binge. While these may be good examples of a binge this is not necessarily a binge-eating disorder. If you are in any doubt about your binge you can contact me.

If you think you suffer from Binge-Eating Disorder, or if you think someone in your family does, medical, psychiatric and psychological professionals would use the following diagnostic criteria to classify the problem. While I have listed the criteria below a diagnosis is not based only on whether a person meets the criteria. Sometimes there are other factors that could be involved which would mean that the diagnosis would not be applied. A diagnostic category or label is a communication tool used by professionals to understand an individual and to devise treatment plans and care packages. Unfortunately, some people internalise labels and then live up to them. Use the following criteria as a guideline to understand the problem rather than to label someone. If you, or someone you know manifests with the following symptoms, try and encourage hin/her to seek professional help. 

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1.      Recurrent episodes of binge eating. This is usually carried out within a distinct period of time; (within any 2-hour period); larger amounts of food than would normally be consumed by most people in similar circumstances are consumed; and importantly there is a perceived sense of lack of control over what is being eaten during this time period.
2.       Accompanying the binge-eating episodes may be eating more rapidly than normal; feeling uncomfortably full; eating large amounts of food when not really feeling physically hungry; eating alone due to embarrassment about the amount of food being eaten and there could be a range of negative feelings after the binge. These could include disgust, depression and/or guilt.
3.      During the binge there is marked distress
4.      Finally there is no inappropriate compensatory behaviour (such as purging (see bulimia nervosa).
Bing-eating disorder usually occurs in individuals with a normal weight and also in individuals who are obese. This is not straightforward as individuals who are obese generally do not engage in recurrent binge-eating. In my practice over the years I have found that the person with obesity sometimes eats very little. Please see the section on obesityAs binge-eating frequently is followed by the need to go on diet please read the section on dieting.
If you or anyone manifests with the above symptoms, please seek helpPlease remember never to diagnose yourself or someone else! Always speak to a professional specialised in diagnosing and working with eating disorders.
Information based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (Fifth Edition) and the ICD-9 and IC-10 criteria.


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