Patient descriptions of loss of control and eating episode size interact to influence expert diagnosis of ICD-11 binge-eating disorder

Berner, Laura A.; Sysko, Robyn; Rebello, Tahilia J.; Roberto, Christina A.; Pike, Kathleen M.

Although data suggest that the sense of “loss of control” (LOC) is the most salient aspect of binge eating, the definition of LOC varies widely across eating disorder assessments. The WHO ICD-11 diagnostic guidelines for binge eating do not require an objectively large amount of food, which makes accurate LOC diagnosis even more critical. However, it can be especially challenging to assess LOC in the context of elevated weight status and in the absence of compensatory behaviors. This ICD-11 field sub-study examined how descriptions of subjective experience during distressing eating episodes, in combination with different eating episode sizes, influence diagnoses of binge-eating disorder (BED).

Mental health professionals with eating disorder expertise from WHO’s Global Clinical Practice Network (N = 192) participated in English, Japanese, and Spanish. Participants were asked to select the correct diagnosis for two randomly assigned case vignettes and to rate the clinical importance and ease of use of each BED diagnostic guideline.

The presence of LOC interacted with episode size to predict whether a correct diagnostic conclusion was reached. If the amount consumed during a typical distressing eating episode was only subjectively large compared to objectively large, clinicians were 23.1 times more likely to miss BED than to correctly diagnose it, and they were 9.7 times more likely to incorrectly diagnose something else than to correctly diagnose BED. In addition, clinicians were 10.8 times more likely to make a false positive diagnosis of BED when no LOC was described if the episode was objectively large. Descriptions of LOC that were reliably associated with correct diagnoses across episodes sizes included two that are similar to those already included in proposed ICD-11 guidelines and a third that is not. This third description of LOC focuses on giving up attempts to control eating because perceived overeating feels inevitable.

Results highlight the importance of detailed clarification of the LOC construct in future guidelines. Explicitly distinguishing LOC from distressing and mindless overeating could help promote consistent and accurate diagnosis of BED versus another or no eating disorder.


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Also Published In

Journal of Eating Disorders

More About This Work

Published Here
December 20, 2022


Binge eating, Loss-of-control eating, Overeating, Binge-eating disorder, Diagnosis and classification, ICD-11