March 18, 2015 Jeanne Rust

Skills, Not Pills to Treat Binge Eating Disorder

refrigerator with foodYou may have already seen the ads for Vyvanse, the new FDA-approved drug for the treatment of binge eating disorder. Vyvanse was originally marketed for the treatment of ADHD, but Shire Pharmaceuticals, the drug's manufacturer, is now promoting it as "an effective option to help curb episodes of binge eating."

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most widespread of all eating disorders and affects 1% to 5% of Americans. For years it was classified as a medical condition. But in 2013 the authors of DSM-V saw the light and classified BED as an eating disorder.

Psychological variables such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety can trigger BED. Genetic predisposition, a close relative with an eating disorder or drug addiction or the metabolic disturbances caused from chronic dieting can also be contributing factors.

When people have BED, they frequently act impulsively. They feel ineffective and alienated and may be haunted by perfectionism. Individuals with BED are at higher risk of developing other illnesses, including anxiety disorder, cardiovascular symptoms, chronic fatigue, depression, infectious diseases and insomnia.

In today's world of big pharma, it seems like there's a pill for every illness. Clients who suffer from depression or anxiety seasoned with PTSD and substance abuse often arrive at Mirasol with a suitcase full of medications. But at Mirasol, we believe in "skills, not pills". In 16 years of treating binge eating disorders and co-occurring conditions, we have found that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling and alternative therapies such as EEG neurofeedback is far more effective than psychotropic medications.

Time will tell whether Vyvanse lives up to the manufacturer's claims. It's worth noting that in 2014, Shire paid more than $50 million to settle a claims that it had engaged in illegal marketing tactics, including marketing Vyvanse for unapproved, off-label uses and falsely representing its safety.