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Behav Res Ther. 2015 Mar;66:72-6. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2015.01.004. Epub 2015 Feb 3.

Evaluation of the DSM-5 severity indicator for binge eating disorder in a community sample.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, United States; Department of Psychology, Yale University, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, United States.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, United States; Yale School of Public Health, United States.


Research has examined various aspects of the diagnostic criteria for binge-eating disorder (BED) but has yet to evaluate the DSM-5 severity criterion. This study examined the DSM-5 severity criterion for BED based on binge-eating frequency and tested an alternative severity specifier based on overvaluation of shape/weight. 338 community volunteers categorized with DSM-5 BED completed a battery of self-report instruments. Participants were categorized first using DSM-5 severity levels and second by shape/weight overvaluation and were compared on clinical variables. 264 (78.1%) participants were categorized as mild, 67 (19.8%) as moderate, 6 (1.8%) as severe, and 1 (0.3%) as extreme. Analyses comparing mild and moderate severity groups revealed no significant differences in demographic variables or BMI; the moderate severity group had greater eating-disorder psychopathology (small effect-sizes) but not depression than the mild group. Participants with overvaluation (N = 196; 60.1%) versus without (N = 130; 39.9%) did not differ significantly in age, sex, BMI, or binge-eating frequency. The overvaluation group had significantly greater eating-disorder psychopathology and depression than the non-overvaluation group. The greater eating-disorder and depression levels (medium-to-large effect-sizes) persisted after adjusting for ethnicity/race and binge-eating severity/frequency, without attenuation of effect-sizes. Findings from this non-clinical community sample provide support for overvaluation of shape/weight as a specifier for BED as it provides stronger information about severity than the DSM-5 rating based on binge-eating. Future research should include treatment-seeking patients with BED to test the utility of DSM-5 severity specifiers and include broader clinical validators.


Binge eating disorder; Body image; Diagnosis; Obesity; Severity

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