Discerning the Difference Between Binge Eating Disorder and Overeating

Obesity is a national concern. Far too many Americans are struggling with being overweight today. For some, the problem may be a serious one and yet fall short of the definition of a mental health disorder. Binge eating is not currently a formal disorder, but it is expected that it will be listed as a diagnosable eating disorder in the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health (DSM-V) due to be released in 2013.

Still, many mental health professionals have been treating their patients for binge eating disorder (BED) in advance of standardized guidelines. In anticipation of expected changes to the DSM-IV, researchers recently took a close look at what might determine the difference between problem overeating and an actual binge eating disorder.

According to the new study, one identifying factor could be the person’s sensation of being out of control during eating.

Since anyone who overeats may describe themselves as uncontrolled, the researchers sought out a way to quantify what being out of controlled looks like. For its research, the team established two distinct groups: obese adults with binge eating disorder and obese adults without binge eating disorder.

Each person in both groups was given a small handheld computer and was asked to keep careful record of how they felt and what they ate each day for seven days. These notes were to be made each time the person ate and not all at once at the end of every day.

What the findings revealed was that people with binge eating disorder consumed more calories whenever they did eat in comparison to those who did not have BED. After factoring out other considerations such as low mood, the researchers concluded that those in the group with binge eating disorder were measurably more out of control in their eating than were those without the condition.

The precise daily diet and emotional records along with the statistical analysis are soon to be released in the publication International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Meanwhile, the researchers say that people with binge eating disorder feel a compulsion to eat and an inability to stop themselves from eating once they begin. The subjects with BED also reported feeling incapable of preventing episodes of overeating from occurring to begin with.

Since the study separated the behavior from emotions, the research team feels that the sense of being out of control over one’s eating qualifies as a determining factor in discerning whether a person overeats or suffers from a mental health disorder. The researchers further point out that even though their study focused on obese subjects, it is possible for a person to live with BED and still have more appropriate body weight.

The person who is able to maintain a better weight may yet experience a sense of powerlessness over his/her own eating habits

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