Chicago, Illinois (PressExposure) March 15, 2011 -- A recent Washington Post column introduces readers to 53-year-old Michael Prager, a 5'10" man weighing 210 lbs, and discusses the disease that took over his life: an addiction to food. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association's guide of accepted psychological diagnoses, food addiction is not a recognized psychiatric disorder. But many eating disorder professionals, including Kimberly Dennis, M.D., Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, still view food addiction as an illness, not just a weakness in judgment, and appeal for its inclusion in the DSM-V Manual, due out in 2013.
Many times diagnostic restrictions, such as not including food addiction, limit access to treatment for those who need it most. If included in the DSM, food addiction would be legitimized and treatment would be covered by many insurance providers. It would also help treatment professionals work to accurately diagnose problems and provide appropriate treatment.
"We need to treat these serious diseases whether they are listed in the DSM or not. But not being listed can make getting access to treatment difficult," said Dr. Dennis. "We are able to help many women and girls obtain recovery from unhealthy relationships with food, body and exercise who may not ever be diagnosed with a formal eating disorder in many other settings," said Dr. Dennis. "But it is a serious obstacle when food addiction is not included in the DSM Manual, and we must fight for its acceptance as a real mental health disease. Stories like the Washington Post article echo the vital need for this."
Despite not being listed, many mental health professionals recognize and treat food addiction as they would treat other addictions such as drugs, alcohol and gambling. "We see food addiction and treat it every day at Timberline Knolls. Most commonly we see it in the form of anorexia and bulimia, but we also treat a fair amount of binge eating disorders and other unspecified eating-related disorders. Many times this happens with adolescents and women who seek treatment primarily for depression or other addictions, and don't realize overeating is a part of their disease," said Dr. Dennis.
"Most people have difficulty seeing the impact of an unhealthy relationship with food, eating, exercise, or their bodies fully on their own. If not identified or treated during the early stages, eating disorders can become chronic, debilitating and even life-threatening. Professional help can lead to a greater sense of peace and manageability, and can save your life," added Dr. Dennis.