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Binge Eating Now a Recognized Mental Illness

Binge eating disorder, a condition that affects an estimated 2% to 5% of Americans over a lifetime, is now a recognized disorder to be included in the upcoming edition of the DSM – the bible of psychological disorders.

Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has not been updated since 1994. On Wednesday, mental health experts who have been working on the upcoming edition came out with proposed changes for the new and soon to be released edition.

The DSM is the book that defines normal and abnormal behaviors for doctors, for the courts, for research – and basically anyone else with a need to classify states of mind. Because of this, an inclusion into the manual has profound implications – heightened insurance coverage for recognized disorders being one such example of the tangible results of an inclusion into the book.

In the upcoming edition, binge eating disorder will be defined as:

Eating a very significant amount of food in one episode at least once weekly for three months and feeling serious feelings of guilt or depression because of the binge eating. Because there is no purging after the fact, binge eating disorder differs from bulimia.

Columbia University psychiatrist, Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, who is involved in the editing of the new manual, commented on the extreme nature of binge eating disorder, saying, “This is not the normative overeating that we all do, by any means. It involves much more loss of control, more distress, deeper feelings of guilt and unhappiness.”

Dr. Walsh admits that as of yet, "There's no consensus as to what is the best treatment. Several types of medications appear helpful, as do several types of psychological treatment." He’s hopeful that binge eating’s inclusion in the upcoming manual will lead to further research and better treatments to come.

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