Popular knowledge of eating disorders should also encompass binge-eating

When one considers the term “eating disorder,” they generally link it with people who either do not eat or purge themselves after every meal. However, a recent study by researchers at Harvard shows that another eating disorder more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia is binge-eating. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or D.S.M.-IV, lists all three of the disorders but classifies binge-eating as a topic of further study rather than a definite diagnosis. If there is to be better treatment for binge-eating, the APA should classify it as a psychiatric disorder.

Binge-eating disorder can bring on some very hefty health concerns, literally. Dr. James I. Hudson, professor of psychiatry at Harvard and the leader of the new study, has found a link between obesity and binge eating. About 10 percent to 15 percent of obese people are binge-eaters. Other complications tied to this disorder are heart disease, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and gastrointestinal problems, according to the Mayo Foundation. These health concerns can be treated not only on a physical level but also a mental level as these new studies show.

The official diagnosis for binge eating is consumption of an excessive amount of food over a two-hour period that occurs as frequently (or more frequently) than twice a week for a period of six months, according to D.S.M-IV. These people withdraw from social situations to hide their uncontrollable eating habits. Along with this eating spree comes feeling of guilt and a loss of control over eating. In the survey conducted by Harvard researchers, 79 percent of binge-eaters suffered from some other psychiatric diagnosis such as depression, substance abuse or phobias.

Recognizing binge-eating as a disorder will allow people to get the kind of help they deserve. Psychological distress is what causes these people to overeat. People with eating disorders could benefit from weight-maintenance programs, psychotherapy and drugs that the FDA has approved for mental disorders. These treatments are available, but they are not cheap. Classifying binge-eating as a disorder rather than a topic of interest would allow for coverage of such treatments on insurance plans. This will make significant changes in health policy. Also, it would encourage the health community to find more solutions to combat this eating disorder. According to research done by the APA, eating disorders are the least treated of psychological problems.

Eating disorders are a growing issue for those college-aged individuals. A poll sponsored by Global Market Insite measured eating disorders on college campuses all over the country and found that a whopping 20 percent of students admit to having an eating disorder of some kind. Nearly 75 percent of those who had admitted to an eating disorder never received any treatment of any kind. Here is some food for thought for the APA: studies show significant numbers of people with a problem with binge eating and the guilt involved after overeating. So, binge eating should not be considered a provisional category in the D.S.M.

Hayley Freeman is a freshman English major from Fort Worth. Her column appears Wednesdays.