Binge-eating disorder will be officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association beginning in May, with publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

For the millions of Americans who have the disorder, this is a major breakthrough for many reasons:

  • Official recognition legitimizes the disorder and gives new hope to those who have it.
  • Nearly half of all states have parity laws that require insurers to cover officially recognized psychiatric disorders.  While insurers have generally been receptive to providing coverage for binge-eating disorder, they may now provide more comprehensive coverage.
  • DSM is used as a reference for psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals worldwide.  Now, they will have common criteria for diagnosing binge-eating disorder.
  • DSM provides healthcare professionals with the language they need to communicate effectively with patients, their families and insurance companies.  Everyone affected by the disorder will now have consistent, shared language to use when discussing BED.
  • By making BED a legitimate diagnosis, it helps those who have the disorder, from a psychiatric perspective, because they are more likely to accept it and to seek treatment.
  • It should improve research funding.  More research would lead to a better understanding of binge-eating disorder, and hopefully to improvements in treatment and recovery.

Without the official designation, until now individuals with binge-eating disorder have been diagnosed as having “eating disorders not otherwise specified,” or EDNOS.

In addition, being categorized with EDNOS can be distressing to many patients.  They may have a life-threatening disorder, but the medical limbo of EDNOS makes it not seem like a real eating disorder.

Recognizing binge-eating disorder and putting it in a category with its own criteria is the first step in treating the disorder.  Now that both patients and clinicians recognize what it is, patients are more likely to get the treatment they need to recover.


Dr. Stuart Koman

Stuart Koman, Ph.D. is President and CEO of Walden Behavioral Care and the nonprofit Walden Center for Education and Research, both in Waltham, Mass. He has 30 years of experience leading and developing behavioral healthcare companies.