binge eating and bipolar disorder
July 26, 2013

Binge Eating More Common Among Bipolar Patients

Rebekah Eliason for - Your Universe Online

In a new study, researchers found bipolar disorder develops differently for people who binge eat. Often, binge eating and obesity accompany bipolar disorder, but researchers have now found the mood disorder functions differently in obese patients who binge eat compared to those who do not.

Up to four percent of Americans are estimated to have either bipolar disorder type I or type II, though many go undiagnosed. Slightly fewer than ten percent of those with the mood disorder, also known as manic-depression or manic-depressive illness, struggle with binge eating. Mark Frye, MD, a psychiatrist and chair of the Department of Psychiatry/Psychology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN noted binge eating disorder is recognized as a distinct condition and is found at a higher rate among bipolar patients compared to the American population at large.

Patients with bipolar disorder who also struggle with binge eating are more likely to suffer from other related mental conditions such as suicidal thoughts, psychosis, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. In contrast, people with bipolar disorder who are obese but do not struggle with binge eating are more likely to suffer from physical problems such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The study also showed it is more common for women with bipolar disorder to binge eat or be obese than for men with the illness.

As Frye explained, "The illness is more complicated, and then by definition how you would conceptualize how best to individualize treatment is more complicated. It really underscores the importance of trying to stabilize mood, because we know when people are symptomatic of their bipolar illness their binge frequency is likely to increase. We want to work with treatments that can be helpful but not have weight gain as a significant side effect."

In recent years, researchers have made considerable progress in exploring the complex genetic roots of bipolar disorder, and Frye says additional research is planned to determine whether there is a significant genetic link between binge eating disorder and bipolar disease.

Chief research officer at the University of Cincinnati's Lindner Center For HOPE Susan McElroy said, "Patients with bipolar disorder and binge eating disorder appear to represent a more severely ill population of bipolar patients. Identification of this subgroup of patients will help determine the underlying causes of bipolar disorder and lead to more effective and personalized treatments."

This study was published in the online Journal of Affective Disorders. Research was funded by the Marriott family. Authors included Scott Crow, MD, University of Minnesota Medical School; Nicole Mori of the Lindner Center of HOPE; and Joanna Biernacka, PhD, Stacey Winham, PhD, Jennifer Geske, Alfredo Cuellar Barboza, MD, Mikel Prieto, MD, Mohit Chauhan, MD, and Lisa Seymour of Mayo Clinic.