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Binge eating disorder and obesity


Binge eating disorder (BED) was included in the DSM IV as a proposed diagnostic category for further study and as an example for an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). BED is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating in the absence of regular compensatory behavior such as vomiting or laxative abuse. Related features include eating until uncomfortably full, eating when not physically hungry, eating alone and feelings of depression or guilt. BED is associated with increased psychopathology including depression and personality disorders. Although BED is not limited to obese individuals, it is most common in this group and those who seek help do so for treatment of overweight rather than for binge eating. In community samples, the prevalence of BED has been found to be 2–5%, in individuals who seek weight control treatment the prevalence is 30%. BED is more equal in gender ratio than bulimia nervosa. Eating disorder treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) improve binge eating with abstinence rates of about 50%. Antidepressants are also effective in reducing binge eating, though less so than psychotherapy. Standard weight loss treatments including bariatric surgery do not seem to exacerbate binge eating problems. Thus, both eating disorder and obesity treatments seem to be beneficial in BED. However, it is recommended today that treatment should first be directed at the disordered eating and associated psychopathology.

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Correspondence to M de Zwaan.

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de Zwaan, M. Binge eating disorder and obesity. Int J Obes 25, S51–S55 (2001).

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  • binge eating
  • binge eating disorder
  • comorbidity

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