Binge-eating disorder and emotional eating are not considered official diagnoses, but there is no doubt that many women (and men) suffer from issues with overeating or dysfunctional eating.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, from Feb. 20-26, 2011, focuses on bulimia and anorexia, since those are official eating disorders, but dysfunctional eating that can lead to weight gain is sometimes overlooked as a more severe psychological problem. It can be a coping mechanism for dealing with stress and emotions and depression. Many people assume obesity is just a result of bad choices and a conscious, deliberate choice of the person who is obese.
“In the next edition of the psychiatric diagnostic manual … binge-eating disorder will be an official disorder, the same as anorexia and bulimia, so at that point it will probably get more attention,” said Edward Abramson, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University and a clinical psychologist. “Right now, it’s not seen officially as a psychiatric disorder.”
In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there is an “eating disorder not otherwise specified” category that includes binge-eating disorder. It’s described as “recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of the regular use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors characteristic of bulimia nervosa.” There is also the binge-eating/purging subtype of anorexia nervosa, but binge-eating is not an official separate disorder.
The DSM 5 website proposes to create a separate category for this disorder. One of the main symptoms it lists is “eating, in a discrete period of time (for example, within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.” There are other characteristics associated with binge-eating, such as “feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterwards.”