Binge Eating Disorder Warrants Greater Attention
> 1/22/2008 1:02:24 PM

While not yet recognized as a diagnosable mental illness, binge eating disorder is commonly understood to be a destructive and inevitably crippling condition whose influence may be greater than that of anorexia and bulimia combined. An estimated 3% of the American population experiences at least two episodes per week in which they, for reasons both genetic and psychological, become compelled to gorge themselves on foods that usually do not include the five daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by the FDA. Salty snacks, desserts and fat/carb-heavy meals are some of the choices often preferred by affected patients, and the results of such pointedly unhealthy habits include the usual: diabetes, cardiovascular complications, heart disease, arthritis, stroke, and, despite the wonders of modern medicine, considerably shorter lifespans.

In a manner similar to that plaguing bulimics, these individuals can make short work of several thousand calories in a single sitting, tearing through foods like they're nothing but an afterthought. Despite the obvious presence of disordered binge eating among a significant portion of the population, a prevailing sentiment questions the validity of bingeing as a distinct disorder and the psychiatric community seems somewhat reluctant to name it as such. But it clearly differs from other, more commonly recognized conditions; the major factor distinguishing binge eating from bulimia is the former's lack of a purging behavior - while most bulimic individuals immediately follow their bingeing with compensatory behaviors like induced vomiting or the ingestion of large quantities of laxatives, binge eaters simply bear their private shame while continuing to put on pounds and make healthy lifestyle resolutions that their condition cannot allow them to fulfill.

An uncontrollable compulsion to eat far beyond the point of satisfaction is an addiction as real - and deadly - as any other. It presents a near-daily struggle not remedied by desire or shame - indeed, it often feeds off these impulses as victims overeat to punish themselves for failing to overcome their condition. Because of its dark horse status among eating disorders, many maintain the false belief that regular bingeing only serves as evidence of a personal weakness/lack of resolve; the cycle inevitably continues. In this way the disorder is very similar to drug addiction - even after periods of abstinence lasting days, weeks or months, most patients relapse, returning to the foods that serve as the source of both their comfort and their shame.

Until it gains official recognition, the list of potential treatments for binge eating will remain slim. Prozac is the only drug currently approved for prescription to eating disorder (bulimia) patients. But alternate meds have produced promising clinical results: the anti-obesity drug Meridia, prescribed to at least 9 million obese Americans unable to reclaim their health through lifestyle changes alone, led to significant weight loss among study subjects suffering from binge eating disorder. Not only did this drug induce weight gain as it has in other patient populations, it also seemed to curb the appetites of binge eaters. This was only a preliminary study, but the millions affected by this disorder (and those who treat them) should take note. Most SSRI antidepressants have also registered favorable clinical outcomes, with more than 40% of study patients scaling back their binge habits while on the meds even though they did not lose significant amounts of weight; SSRIs may consitute part of a more successful treatment equation including personal therapy and weight-loss drugs. The fact that a majority of binge eating patients are also depressed may have something to do with this result, but the relationship between SSRI's and uncontrollable appetites should be further defined. Binge eating is its own disorder, and it should be recognized as such in order to gain greater funding for related research. Any issue compromising the health of nearly 10 million Americans and leading to yearly healthcare expenditures in the billions should be addressed as soon as possible; if research cannot address these very immediate problems it is not fully serving its purpose for the benefit of drug developers, mental health professionals and the affected public.


I ran across this blog during a google search. I have chronic depression, dysthymia, occasional severe depression, anxiety disorder and disordered attention. I take so much medication I don't know what's working and what's not. I'm 55 and self employed, disabled by back and knee injury. My work is physical so I am paying someone to do that part for me. My attention is so bad that I have a hard time doing simple tasks. Once I become frustrated in my seeming inability to accomplish sales and administration tasks in my home office, anxiety ensues then procrastination then shut down. One med I am taking is Ritalin for the attention problem. It seemed to work at firts but recently I seem to be less attentive and more anxious. Any helpful direction will be appreciated
Posted by: Nan 3/10/2008 2:02:52 AM

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