Just when our label-loving, categorizing-happy, pigeonholed society got comfortable with the classifications of eating disorders, the American Psychiatric Association threw in a wrench on Saturday by adding another to the mix. Binge-Eating Disorder is now officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, fifth edition), referred to as psychiatry’s “Bible” of disorders. Previously, Binge-Eating Disorder (BED) had been in the manual under Appendix B, a category of conditions requiring “further study”. What this new classification means for the potentially millions out there suffering is that they can finally seek and receive treatment for this otherwise under-discussed disorder.

So what defines Binge-Eating Disorder? Don’t we all at some point eat way too much at a time? Isn’t overeating a pretty obvious affliction in this country given the average girth of its inhabitants?

It is not that simple.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food
  • Eating when not hungry, or past the point of feeling full
  • Eating at a rapid pace
  • Feeling guilty or that your behavior is out of control
  • Yo-yo dieting

So far, the causes for this relatively new disorder are unknown. Possible factors could be related to family history, personal dietary history, or age. Typically, BED is diagnosed when a patient displays these behaviors twice or more per week for at least six months. Treatments vary, ranging from psychotherapy to supervised weight loss programs. Some are successful with self-treatments including self-help books and support groups.

You might be surprised to learn that not all people with BED are overweight. Of course, the risks of becoming obese increase dramatically with this condition, as does the risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease. What has not been touched on before now, though, are the root– or underlying– issues, both emotionally and mentally. Being overweight in this society invites an assault of unfair judgment and stigma. If the root cause of the problem is not properly addressed, then the cycle can become vicious for many people.

A website dedicated to educate and support this epidemic suggests that BED is the most common of all eating disorders. Here’s my question: Why then, did it take so long to be properly recognized? Had sufferers been made aware and treatment made available sooner, we might not have seen the dramatic, tragic obesity statistics we see today. Another point I’d like to make: the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) was published in 1994. It took nearly twenty years for the manual to be updated. When you’re talking about options for treatment and insurance payouts for treatment, twenty years is a long time to appropriately acknowledge and categorize this and many other diagnoses.

If you are one of the many people living with Binge-Eating Disorder, seek whatever form of help that works for you. We all deserve the best life we can have. Awareness is the first step to solving a problem.

Jodilyn Stuart is the owner of ModaBody Fitness and has been a fitness professional since 1997. She currently contributes to 303 Magazine as a Fitness and Health writer. If you have questions, feel free to email at: [email protected]