03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Binge-Eating Should Be Recognized As A Psychiatric Disorder

When I was five years old, I ate whole boxes of the Girl Scout Cookies I was supposed to sell to my neighbors. When I was seven, I started stealing blocks of cheese from our groceries and telling my mom she forget them at the store. When I was in high school, I wouldn't eat for days then gorge myself into a stupor. When I was in college, I gained 80 pounds in one year. I never knew what was wrong with me or why I was like this.

All the people arguing against recognizing binge eating as a psychiatric disorder do so because they think this will just excuse weak-willed people for being fat. They have never suffered from this life-ruining disease -- their ignorance means they're lucky. The only choice you have when you're in this disease is whether or not to ask for help, and this would allow professionals to treat us for the serious problem we suffer from. It would also spur psychiatrists to study the disease and find the root causes.

We're not talking about a few extra calories here and there, we're talking about a mental and physical obsession, just like bulimia or anorexia, that leads to a life of hell devoid of all sense of reality. I've been lucky enough to find salvation in the 12 steps, but every week I hear stories of the insanity of this disease: People who stole food, ate out of the garbage, ate frozen food, fried sugary treats to add fat, anything to fulfill this crazy desire beyond our understanding.

Yes, some people may be given medication they don't need, and some others may find comfort in the label to excuse the five extra pounds they carry around, but those possibilities are nothing compared to millions who could seek help under these guidelines and find others like them.