Binge Eaters with Bipolar Disorder More Likely to Develop Other Psychiatric Illnesses

Research findings from a group of Midwest-based investigators suggest bipolar disorder (BD) is linked to different illness burdens in binge eaters compared to obese patients who do not experience compulsive episodes of uncontrollable overeating.

Research findings from a group of Midwest-based investigators suggest bipolar disorder (BD) is linked to different illness burdens in binge eaters compared to obese patients who do not experience compulsive episodes of uncontrollable overeating.

Noting that a higher rate of binge eating is observed in Americans with BD than among the general population and that the latest update of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes binge eating disorder (BED) as a distinct condition, Susan L. McElroy, MD, chief research officer at the Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, OH, and researchers from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN, the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Cincinnati, OH, and the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, MN, explored the relationship between BED and obesity in 717 patients with some form of bipolar illness.

The results of their “Clinical Phenotype of Bipolar Disorder with Comorbid Binge Eating Disorder” study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that “both BED and obesity were associated with greater psychiatric and general illness burden, but illness burden profiles differed.”

Those two profiles showed BD patients who were binge eaters were more likely to have other psychiatric conditions such as “suicidality, psychosis, mood instability, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse,” while obese BD patients who did not binge eat were more likely to have serious physical problems such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

“Among patients with BP, BED and obesity are highly prevalent and correlated, but associated with different profiles of enhanced illness burden,” the authors concluded. “As the association of BED with greater psychiatric illness burden remained significant even after accounting for the effect of obesity, BP with BED may represent a clinically important sub-phenotype.”

In a press release, McElroy added that “identification of this subgroup of patients will help determine the underlying causes of bipolar disorder and lead to more effective and personalized treatments.” The authors have already planned more research projects to determine whether BD contains a genetic link to BED.

For more information about the current findings, watch this YouTube clip of co-author Mark Frye, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry/Psychology at the Mayo Clinic.