Knowledge of binge eating disorder: a cross-sectional survey of physicians in the United States

Dylan Supina, Barry K Herman, Carla B Frye, Alicia C Shillington
Postgraduate Medicine 2016, 128 (3): 311-6

OBJECTIVES: Binge eating disorder (BED)--now a designated disorder in the DSM-5--is the most prevalent eating disorder (ED), affecting 2-3% of the US population. This survey of US physicians assesses how BED is diagnosed, treated and referred.

METHODS: Internists, family practitioners, obstetrics/gynecologist (OB/GYNs) and psychiatrists were randomly selected from a nationally-representative panel. Participants completed an online survey and reviewed case vignettes consistent with DSM-5-defined BED, then answered questions to elicit whether they would assess for psychiatric conditions including EDs. Those reporting they would screen and who correctly identified BED in vignettes received additional questions about BED diagnosis, treatment, and referral patterns.

RESULTS: Of 278 physicians surveyed, 96% were board-certified and 87% had practiced >10 years. 23% were psychiatrists, 27% family practitioners, 31% internists and 19% OB/GYNs. 92% were 'somewhat likely' to screen for ED after reviewing DSM-5-consistent vignettes. 206 (74%) correctly identified BED. Of these, 33% and 68% reported they proactively screen eating habits for all patients and obese patients, respectively. 10% reported not screening eating habits even in the presence of ED symptoms. Fewer than half reported using DSM criteria in Diagnosing BED, and 56 (27%) did not recognize BED to be a discreet ED.

CONCLUSION: Although ED awareness is improving, understanding BED as a distinct ED is lacking, which may result in low rates of screening and diagnosis. This study illustrates how taking a complete patient history (including probing BED characteristics) may be an effective first-line strategy for clinicians to facilitate optimal care for these patients.


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