Close up of Polish doughnuts

Landmark Chew and Spit study underway

27 November 2016
Disordered eating referred to as Chew and Spit undiagnosed

A review of Chew and Spit research revealed a lack of information about the disordered eating phenomenon - prompting research now underway - to help develop treatments and answer questions about wide-reaching consequences.

PhD candidate Phillip Aouad is leading the Chew and Spit study. Polish doughnuts Wikimedia Commons photo credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

A world-first study is underway investigating an addictive disordered eating phenomenon, known as Chew and Spit (CHSP), which anecdotal evidence suggests can lead to unwanted weight gain as well as deteriorating health.

CHSP had been listed in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) – a resource used by clinicians to diagnose various psychiatric disorders – under Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. However the disordered eating behaviour has since been removed from the updated edition because of a lack of awareness about the condition.

PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology Phillip Aouad, who is leading the CHSP study, said he had been told that CHSP was removed in the revision of the DSM because of a lack of academic investigation and because clinicians did not seem to be screening for it at present.

In August this year, Mr Aouad and his supervisors Professor Stephen Touyz from the School of Psychology and Dr Nerissa Soh from Sydney Medical School, along with Professor Phillipa Hay from the University of Western Sydney, published the world-first systematic review of Chew and Spit, which found only nine studies that met eligibility criteria.

“Additional investigation into Chew and Spit is needed in order to better understand the biological, psychosomatic, and psychosocial impact on those engaging in the behaviour,” Mr Aouad said.

“The lack of definitive answers seem to be a source of stress for many people who have been engaging in CHSP.”

People who Chew and Spit or who have been involved in CHSP previously are encouraged to contact Mr Aouad to participate in the study. Results will be made available to participants prior to publication.

“I hope my research will answer at least a few of the questions that are plaguing the minds of those who Chew and Spit,” Mr Aouad said.

“If anything, it should provide a starting point for further research into tailoring treatments specific to the behavior, especially for those that may not necessarily have a clinically diagnosed eating disorder.”

The study will involve an initial interview, after which participants are asked to keep a diary for two weeks

Study details are on the School of Psychology website.

For help, people are encouraged to contact eating disorder and associated groups:

If people are struggling, it is recommended they speak to their primary care physician and obtain a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Vivienne Reiner

PhD Candidate and Casual Academic
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