Treating Binge-Eating Disorder

10 May 2016 Written by 

Treating Victims Of Binge Eating Disorder


From Science Daily: A treatment used for depression, Parkinson’s disease and autism shows promise to alleviate obesity in binge-eating disorder patients. tDCS is a type of neuromodulator that delivers constant, low-current electricity to a targeted portion of the brain.

Transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, has proved effective for binge-eating disorder for the first time, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

tDCS is a type of neuromodulator that delivers constant, low-current electricity to a targeted portion of the brain. While it has been tested and proved effective for many disorders and health issues, including depression, Parkinson's disease and autism, this UAB study is the first to effectively prove its potential as a treatment in patients with binge-eating disorder, or BED.

The American Psychiatric Association classifies BED as an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating, which is eating large quantities of food in a short period of time with a sense of loss of control to stop. Binges are followed with feelings of shame, disgust and distress. Unlike bulimia, there is no purging to counter the calories from binge eating. Obesity is very common among those with BED.

Approximately 5 percent of the U.S. adult population suffers from a lifetime prevalence of BED, with an additional 1.2 percent with sub-threshold BED and 4.5 percent with binge-eating tendencies.

Compared to obese individuals without BED, obese individuals with BED are more prone to depression, anxiety, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and social withdrawal.

"There are more adults suffering from BED than are suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia combined," said Mary Boggiano, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychology and principal investigator on the study, which was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Currently, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the best treatment for BED. However, CBT is not perfect, and there are many patients who relapse after treatment. Pharmaceutical treatments for BED are often ineffective and can have many negative side effects.

Frank Amthor, Ph.D., a professor in the UAB Department of Psychology with a background in engineering, knew about tDCS and suggested it to Boggiano as a treatment that could possibly alleviate obesity. tDCS studies were showing that it reduced depression and food craving, but in normal-weight and non-eating-disorder populations.

"We knew that a substantial percentage of BED patients also suffer from depression," said Emilee Burgess, the lead graduate student of the study. "With that information, we hypothesized that we might be able to use tDCS, which had been found to decrease depressive symptoms, to positively impact certain factors that contribute to BED, such as food craving, intake, binge-eating desire and binge-eating frequency."

Read more: Researchers find potential breakthrough in binge-eating disorder treatment

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