Regional areas worst hit for dangerous new eating disorder

A DANGEROUS new eating disorder could be affecting one in 20 Australians, but people with it who live outside a capital city could struggle to find treatment.

Since May, binge-eating disorder has been given formal recognition by the world mental health bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Experts suspect up to 5% of the population have it.

That makes binge-eating more widespread than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

The disorder is not the same as over-indulging, according to the Butterfly Foundation.

It is a coping mechanism used to handle "some kind of emotional or psychological issue".

Symptoms include binge-eating regularly, consuming large amounts in a short period and critically, these people have a "sense of lost control" while they eat.

The foundation's Sarah Spence said the binge-eating episodes could be triggered by stress, anger or distress.

"It really affects those of any economic background, age, culture or geographical location," Ms Spence said.

"The issue for people in regional or rural areas is that the frequency is just what it would be in metropolitan areas but receiving treatment is more complicated."