By LUCY ORMONDE
When you hear the term ‘eating disorder’ you think of anorexia and bulimia. Right?
Your mental picture is probably of an extremely underweight person – probably a young woman.
But what about the other end of the scale? Literally.
It turns out that ‘binge eating’ is now Australia’s most common eating disorder.
A new report from The Butterfly Foundation estimates 913,986 Australians are currently suffering from some form of eating disorder, which is approximately four per cent of the population.
Breaking that four per cent down, approximately three per cent of sufferers have anorexia, 12 per cent have bulimia nervosa, 47 per cent suffer from binge eating disorder (BED) and 38 per cent from other eating disorders.
So while the widespread image of someone with an eating disorder is a young woman with anorexia, in fact the most common type of eating disorder sufferer is likely to be obese with 44 per cent of all obese people suffering from BED.
But did you even know that binge eating was a classified eating disorder?
And – the question we wanted to know as we discussed the report among the women in our editorial meeting – what actually constitutes ‘binge eating disorder?’
Surely we’ve all been guilty of scoffing a tub of ice cream on the couch after a break-up or eating a whole pizza and garlic bread and dessert. But at what point do those actions become a disorder?
According to the mental health resource Reach Out, there are seven characteristics of a Binge Eating Disorder:
- Feeling that your eating is out of control.
- Eating what most people would consider to be a large or excess amount of food on a regular basis.
- Being secretive about what is eaten and when.
- Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty about overeating.
The Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan said the easiest way to understand Binge Eating Disorder was like bulimia nervosa “without the purging.”
“It’s a feeling of being out of control,” Christine said when we asked her how to separate binge eating as a disorder from the occasional over indulgence. “There’s not a sense of will power,” she said. “There’s a very high level of distress. It’s that overwhelming sense of ‘I am not in control’.”
Christine described Binge Eating Disorder as a “very, very serious illness,” but she said that even though approximately 44 per cent of all obese people suffer from this disorder, few seek help because of shame.
When the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) comes out next year, it will be the first time Binge Eating Disorder will be classified as a stand alone disorder.
“And that’s indicative of how prevalent it is,” Christine said. “They need the validation that this is a serious disorder. There is help available.”
If you need help or support you can call the Butterfly Foundation support line on 1800 334 673.