Capital Health does not treat binge eating in its eating disorder clinic

Authority cites different treatment requirements as main factor

Capital Health, Nova Scotia’s largest health authority, does not include binge eating disorder as part of its eating disorder treatment programs.

On its website under a section titled ‘eating disorders clinic’, Capital Health says, “The Capital Health Eating Disorder Clinic is dedicated to helping people overcome anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The clinic does not provide services for other eating problems such as binge eating disorder.”

On Friday, published a story about a 21-year-old Halifax woman’s struggles with compulsive overeating, or binge eating disorder, throughout her life.

BED is characterized by excessive, uncontrolled calorie consumption – often to cope with negative feelings – without the purging that is associated with bulimia. While widely known among eating disorder specialists, BED was only fully recognized in the medical community in 2013 when it was officially added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

But the reason Capital Health doesn’t treat BED alongside other eating disorders has nothing to do with its rank in the medical lexicon.

Yvette Scattolon, psychologist at Capital Health’s eating disorder clinic, said BED presents an entirely different set of issues for the medical community than bulimia and anorexia.

“We find that mixing the populations of people with anorexia and bulimia with binge eating — it’s not a good fit. The eating behaviours are different so treatment requirements are different, and oftentimes the emotional issues are different as well,” she explained.

Scattolon said there is also a risk of people with BED learning purging behaviour if they are treated alongside bulimia patients.

She said this is not unique to Capital Health’s structure, and many small eating disorder clinics in the country do not treat BED.

So, where does someone with BED go within Capital Health to seek treatment? “It’s sticky,” Scattolon said.

There isn’t any particular department or specialist that deals with BED. She said there are treatment programs through Capital Health for patients who are morbidly obese, but that doesn’t address the many BED sufferers that are not obese or even overweight.

“There isn’t any formalized program, it would just be word of mouth in a private practice,” she said.
Some treatment options for BED, such as Dalhousie’s counselling centre and Overeaters Anonymous, are listed at the end of our previous article.