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Are You a Binge Eater? You May Have a Mental Disorder

By HERWriter Guide
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EmpowHER has spoken a lot about the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as the DSM) that is due out in three years. Every new manual causes a stir, with new disorders put in (certain addictions, for example) and others removed (like homosexuality). The manual is currently on its fourth edition. The manual of 2013 will be its fifth.

What is the DSM? It’s a comprehensive manual that takes years to review. Well qualified and peer-reviewed psychiatrists go through every possible mental disorder and evaluate what can legitimately be considered a mental illness and what can’t. Changes are needed when newly discovered disorders come to light or old ones are no longer considered legitimate.

Why is the DSM so important? Long considered the ‘bible’ for the world of psychiatry, a person must fit certain criteria (signs, symptoms, behaviors, etc.) to be diagnosed, just like any other disease or disorder. Otherwise, no one would be clear on exactly how to diagnose a patient and therefore treatment would be ineffective. This manual is also of great importance because insurance companies use it when considering its coverage of mental disorders/illnesses.

Another mental disorder is now being recommended for addition to the DSM - and that mental disorder is binge eating. Binge eating by humans is explained as when a person eats copious amounts of food (often alone) even when not hungry – and often until the person feels physically sick. It is common for depression or feelings of self-loathing to set in after a binge. But not long after, the binging begins again, continuing the never-ending cycle of eating that causes so many damaging mental and physical conditions.

The current DSM does not single out binge eating as a specific order but if the recommendations are accepted, it will.

So we’re left to wonder why anyone would binge eat? Why would someone buy three Big Mac meals and eat them in their car, and then buy another two Whopper meals, along with milkshakes and desserts and eat those minutes later? And then he or she might go home and two hours later consume a never-ending meal containing thousands of other calories? They are not hungry so are they just greedy? Too lazy to make real food? Uneducated? Not according to many experts, or the binge eaters themselves.

After some time, the binge eaters don’t even taste their food. Many are in tears while eating. The self-hatred that follows is incredibly strong. And yet it starts all over again. It’s a compulsion, they explain. A horribly irresistible compulsion.

Experts want to make sure, however, that obesity is not classified as a disorder. Obesity is a symptom, not a cause of over-eating (with exceptions made, of course, for conditions or medications that cause weight gain as well as certain hereditary connections). And since obesity can be caused by so many variables, it’s not recommended as an addition.

Many people welcome the recommendation that binge eating should be acknowledged as a mental disorder– allowing sufferers to get the medical attention they need, with insurance companies covering treatment. However, many others disagree with the recommendation – believing it to be within a person’s control what kind of food they eat and how much. Bloggers have wondered why binge eaters don’t binge on carrots or lettuce? Why only burgers, pizzas and ice cream? But others insist that it’s those very foods that cause the binge eating in the first place.

For more information, visit the DSM website here: http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx Input in always welcome.

What about you? Do you believe binge eating is a legitimate mental disorder or do you think it will open a floodgate of excuses as to why people eat this way with a kind of “I can’t help it, it’s a disorder!” mentality? Do you think it should be added to the DSM?

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.