Binge Eating in Bipolar Disorder Could Signal Additional Problems

July 30, 2013

Patients with bipolar disorder who engage in binge eating are likely to have additional psychiatric issues, according to a new study published in the online Journal of Affective Disorders. 

These patients—up to 10% of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder—tend also to be prone to anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts, researchers found. 

Comparatively, the study showed that patients with bipolar disorder who are obese but do not binge eat have an increased likelihood of physical health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart conditions, and high blood pressure. 

Obesity and binge eating are more common among women than men with bipolar disorder, according to the investigation of 717 patients. 

The presence of binge eating, researchers noted, complicates a patient’s bipolar disorder treatment. 

"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,” said coauthor Mark Frye, MD, psychiatrist and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry/Psychology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. 

“We want to work with treatments that can be helpful but not have weight gain as a significant side effect." 

Earlier this year, binge eating disorder was categorized as a specific condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

Additional research will investigate whether binge eating among patients with bipolar disorder has a genetic link. 

The study was a joint effort by the Mayo Clinic, the Lindner Center of HOPE, and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. 

—Jolynn Tumolo  


1. McElroy SL, Crow S, Biernacka JM, et al. Clinical phenotype of bipolar disorder with comorbid binge eating disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013 June 3. [Epub ahead of print]. 

2. Bipolar disorder takes different path in patients who binge eat [press release]. Rochester, MN: Mayo Clinic; July 25, 2013.

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