As clinicians and researchers learn more, categorization of various mental health issues and disorders changes to reflect more precise diagnostic criteria, thus helping those who are seeking treatment and understanding. For example, the tool that mental healthcare professionals use to help guide their diagnoses and treatment plans – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is revised from time-to-time to ensure that updates are made as more information about various disorders becomes clearer. In its latest edition, the DSM-5 has included an important revision in the chapter involving Feeding and Eating Disorders.
Definition of Binge Eating Disorder According to the DSM-5
In the latest edition of the DSM, Binge Eating Disorder has now been recognized as separate and distinct from the “catch-all” category of eating disorders labeled “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS).” In the past, this category was used for individuals who had disordered eating and behavioural patterns that did not fit into the DSM-IV criteria of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. However, it is now recognized that a large number of individuals diagnosed with Eating Disorder NOS category may actually have Binge Eating Disorder. This is an important distinction because diagnostic criteria for this disorder can be more clearly articulated. According to the DSM-5, Binge Eating Disorder causes distress and significant physical and psychological problems. It is defined as:
- Recurring episodes of eating significantly more food in a short period of time than most people would eat under similar circumstances
- Eating episodes marked with feelings of lack of control
- Eating too quickly, even when not hungry
- Feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or disgust
- Eating alone to hide the behaviour
The Implications of this New Diagnosis
This new distinction of Binge Eating Disorder in the DSM has important implications for individuals seeking help. The DSM criteria associated with the disorder will hopefully be associated with a more meaningful and accurate diagnosis. In addition, healthcare professionals can improve communication among service providers and improve treatment planning given their shared understanding of what the disorder represents, as compared to the previous diagnosis of an eating disorder, “not otherwise specified.”
In addition, the formal categorization of binge eating disorder may also reassure individuals who are attempting to seek help for this cluster of behaviours that causes them a significant amount of pain and distress. Family members or others may have told individuals with binge eating disorder that they simply are “overeating,” making the individual with the problem feel like the problem should be within his/ her control to fix. The diagnosis of binge eating disorder, when indicated, may help the individual to realize that seeking help for the problem is necessary and appropriate. It may also provide the individual with insight into the fact that binge eating disorder is more than simply “overeating” – that it is far more severe and requires treatment by professionals who can help. When an accurate diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment plan can then be developed. With the appropriate treatment plan and guidance and support from professionals, an individual can begin to recover from their binge eating disorder.
Think you might have an eating disorder? Do you have a family member or friend who may require help with a binge eating disorder? Bellwood Health Services can provide you with you information, resources and support needed to recover from an eating disorder.
Contact Bellwood to learn how we can help.