Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Binge Eating Disorder — The Bridge Between Obesity and Eating Disorders

Written by Robyn Hussa Farrell and Chevese Turner — Founders of NORMAL and BEDA, respectively.


As we know, the nation is caught in the grip of epidemic health crisis, including both mental health and obesity.  Following extensive recent studies, we now know that mental illness (including addictions) is more widespread than previously imagined and is the likely cause of nearly 25 percent of disabilities nationwide. We also know that mental health and obesity overlap significantly, which demands a look at what we are currently doing and how to move forward.

As an example: one of the most common and serious mental illness diagnoses is Binge Eating Disorder (BED) – an illness that can range from catastrophic self-starvation to morbidly dangerous obesity and affects men and women almost equally.  BED affects approximately 15 million individuals and can be thought of as the “bridge” between obesity and eating disorders. It is the illness where both an obesogenic and thin obsessed culture collide to produce an often disabling disorder requiring years of physical and mental health therapeutic interventions.

This disorder can affect individuals of all ages, races, and socio-economic levels, and experts agree that this illness is more prevalent than anorexia and bulimia combined.

BED represents 60% of those seeking diets and bariatric surgery – both of which often exacerbate rather than solve the problem.

According to the latest research, we know:

  • Up to 50% of those with obesity may be suffering from the mental illness, Binge Eating Disorder,
  • Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders are the leading cause of death,
  • 25 – 28 million Americans are struggling with one of the four types of eating disorders, and
  • At least one-fourth of all US teenage girls are suffering from self-mutilation, eating disorders, significant depression, or serious consideration of suicide.

The lack of information and awareness of these problems is particularly damaging to young people – many times beginning as early as primary grades in schools.   As a form of stress-management, “loss-of-control” eating or “stress-based exercising” typically continues through college and can turn into a diagnosable, life threatening eating disorder.

This said, there is hope as this disorder is preventable and treatable with the right interventions.

We must begin now to address the full range of contributing factors that are pushing our children to either starve or overeat — the new norm in our culture.

Thanks to the ground-breaking work of ANAD, BEDA and NORMAL, we are releasing a documentary film to help outline more facts, research and detail about binge eating disorder.  A 20-minute version of the film will premiere this week in Bethesda, MD at the 2013 BEDA conference.  For information on the 2013 BEDA Conference, please click here.

Please follow along on this important journey to bring more awareness of mental illnesses like binge eating disorder into schools nationwide.

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