When most people hear ‘eating disorder,’ they think anorexia or bulimia. But there are lots of different types of disordered eating—binge eating, compulsive night eating, obsessively health-conscious eating—and psychiatrists may officially recognize several ‘new’ eating disorders in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistic manual. The DSM guides the way psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health patients, how insurance companies cover treatment, what researchers get grants for studying and the drugs pharmaceutical companies develop. I asked Dr. Janet Taylor, a clinical psychiatry instructor at Columbia University’s Harlem Hospital, about the DSM, new eating disorders and what these mean for mental health care.
What is the DSM-V?
JT: The Diagnostic and Statistic manual provides the criteria needed for clinicians to make a diagnosis of a mental disorder or disease. It relies on evidence-based information and clinical trials based on diagnostic agreement needed to make a diagnosis or select upon a treatment. It is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Why do these definitions in the DSM matter so much?
JT: It is extremely critical that clinicians and patients have the ‘right’ diagnosis. Making a diagnosis is multi-faceted and involves an involved clinical history, knowledge of social conditions and evidence based criteria, standards and definitions that can be used worldwide.
What is avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder? The Daily Mail said the new guidelines could classify ‘fussy eaters’ of having a mental disorder.
JT: Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder is where a person may avoid certain foods based on allergies or an underlying psychological belief. They do not have any concerns about gaining weight or underlying psychotic symptoms that may account for their behavior. Picky eating may be a symptom, but on it’s own would not be a disorder.
Why are defining things like this important?
JT: It will be helpful within the Eating Disorders Classification to connect food behavior and beliefs in regard to treatment and an accurate diagnosis.
Click through for more on how the American Psychiatric Association proposes defining different eating disorders in the upcoming DSM-V.