In its April 2009 edition of the Monitor on Psychology, the American Psychological Association reported that a new working group on Eating Disorders has formed to consider revamping the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders, and, possibly adding either new disorders or injecting flexibility into the existing disorder criteria. As an example, Author Tori DeAngelis states that the currently existing criteria for anorexia involves loss of regular periods. Clearly, that has no relevance for men with anorexia and many anorexics still have a regular menstral period. Additionally, so little research and attention has currently been given to eating disorders in men, that even in an article on New Solutions, author Amy Novotney leaves that area to the very end of her article.
As I’ve said to many people and have blogged before, I believe Binge Eating Disorder (“BED”) gets the short end of our collective consciousness. We do not view BED as an eating disorder, possibly because of our continued bias against heavier people, and possibly because we still view those who “overeat” as being capable of controlling this behavior, if only they weren’t so lazy. Yet, BED is complusive eating, and as a complusion, by definition, it is incapable of being controlled. As it stands now, BED is currently classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM”) as “Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified.” Also in the works may be a new diagnosis of purge disorder, where individuals feel the need to purge after eating only a relatively small amount of food.
Why is this so important? First, some insurance companies may provide benefits only for those disorders that are “diagnosable”, thus meaning, if BED was a better classified disorder, individuals suffering, and recovering, from it, may get better access to treatment. In reference to the newly developing disorder of purge eating, doctors have stated that specific delineation in the DSM “would allow for a commonly accepted name and definition of condition, promote greater progress in resarching they psychological and biological featuers of the disorder and elad to more specific evidence-based treatments.” See Monitor on Psychology, “New Solutions”, April 2009, p. 51.
Second, BED is not included in the statistics on Eating Disorders in general – for example, the APA reports that 10 million Americans report symptoms of an eating disorder, but an estimated million more suffer from BED. Thus, sending a message to those with BED that they don’t fit into the paradigm of eating disorders.
I recently had the opportunity to grab lunch and a park bench with Paula D. Atkinson, an established yoga teacher who writes, blogs, teaches and educates on yoga and eating disorder. She said “Its all the same disorder; anorexia, bulemia, binge eating, it all comes from the same place.” I happen to agree with her, and believe that eating disorders can be best understood as a form of addiction. I’ve blogged on that in the past.
Research also shows that bulimia and binge eating “appear to be more prevalent among minority populations than once thought.” See Monitor on Psychology, “New Solutions”, April 2009, p. 50. “Overall, the study authors say, minorities often do not seek treatment for eating disorders, and they warn that the standard criteria for eating-disorder diagnoses may need to be revised for these populations.” Id. at 51.
Research is also ongoing into the prevalence of pregnancy as initiating binge eating behavior, especially among the economically disadvantaged. Id. at 51. Information about eating disorders and pregnancy, as well as online support can be found at http://www.somethingfishy.org/online/bulletinboard.php.
All of this information can be boiled down into the following: there are people who are suffering from disordered eating who are not getting the help or treatment they deserve. Among the treatment modalities that has been shown to alleviate some suffering as well as make treatment more effective is yoga. Many of the populations where eating disorders are proliferating are among the economically disadvantaged and minorities, who may not be able to shell out $18 for a yoga class or travel to a studio not in their neighborhood. This is why its vital for yoga teachers to reach out and start community based yoga classes, either entirely for free or based on a donation system. If we bring yoga to everyone who needs it, then we build stronger communities, stronger neighborhoods, stronger cities, and better lives for everyone.
Information on the eating disorders working group subsection of the DSM revision can be found here: http://www.psych.org/MainMenu/Research/DSMIV/DSMV/WorkGroups/Eating.aspx
Help for those with BED or even feelings as though their overeating has taken over their lives can be found via Overeaters Anonymous. Information here: https://www.oa.org/meetings/find-a-meeting-online/.
If you are a yoga teacher who wants to volunteer to work with people with eating disorders, contact Sprout Yoga by their website www.sproutyoga.org or by emailing the Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.