The clinical significance of binge eating disorder

Denise E. Wilfley, G. Terence Wilson, W. Stewart Agras

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


Objective: Current controversy exists regarding the status of binge eating disorder (BED) as a diagnostic entity. A critique of the literature is provided to address the question of whether BED represents a clinically significant syndrome. Method: The scientific evidence is considered through addressing five questions that are key in evaluating the clinical utility of any mental disorder. Results: Individuals with BED meaningfully differ from individuals without eating disorders, and share important similarities to, yet are distinct from, individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). BED is associated with co-occurring physical and mental illnesses, as well as impaired quality of life and social functioning. Questions about the course of the disorder and the optimal treatment regimen for the syndrome need to be explored further. Discussion: BED's distinctive combination of core eating disorder psychopathology, and other co-occurring physical and psychiatric conditions, impaired psychosocial functioning, and overweight constitute an eating disorder of clinical severity and a significant public health problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S96-S106
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 2003


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Psychopathology


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