The results of a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study indicate that binge-eating disorder may be more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The study’s authors stated that more attention should be given to binge-eating disorder as a public health issue, both because of its prevalence and because of its connection to obesity.
Researchers also found that people with all types of eating disorders often have mood, anxiety, impulse-control, or substance abuse disorders as well. The study’s authors recommended that health care providers question patients more often about whether they have eating difficulties, which could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment for eating disorders.
Data used in the study came from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), a nationwide survey funded by the NIMH and conducted between February 2001 and December 2003. The study appears in the February 2007 issue of Biological Psychiatry, under the title, “The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.”
Researchers examined NCS-R data from 2,980 adult subjects who were questioned about eating disorders. They discovered that 3.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men reported having binge-eating disorder at some point in their lives. The numbers for bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa were significantly smaller: 1.5 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men reported having bulimia nervosa; and 0.9 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men reported having anorexia nervosa.
People who suffer from binge-eating disorder experience episodes of consuming unusually large amounts of food. During these episodes, patients feel that they have lost control over their eating. People with bulimia nervosa also go through episodes of extreme overeating over which they feel they have no control. However, the difference between binge-eating disorder and bulimia nervosa is that bulimics purge after binging by vomiting, overexercising, using diuretics, or fasting, while people with binge-eating do not purge after binging.
Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa are obsessed with losing ever more weight and often refuse to stop starving themselves even when their weight is dangerously low. Some people exhibit symptoms of both anorexia and bulimia, alternating between the two disorders at different points.
In general, eating disorders of all kinds appear to be undertreated. NIMH researchers found that although over half of subjects with eating disorders stated that they had been treated for emotional problems, less than 45 percent looked for treatment from a clinician specializing in eating disorders.
The NIMH study was conducted by James I. Hudson, M.D., Sc.D. of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School and colleagues.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health
Press release: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/press