Diagnosing an Eating Disorder
have an eating disorder may eat too little or eat unusually large amounts of
food. Additionally, they may be extremely preoccupied with their shape or
disorders can affect anyone. However, females are more likely than males to
have this illness, according to the National
Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). In fact, only an
estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are males.
There are four
main types of eating disorders.
- Anorexia nervosa: People with this condition don’t
eat enough and they may have an extremely thin appearance.
- Bulimia nervosa: People with this condition
overeat, and then purge to avoid gaining weight. They may also abuse laxatives
and diet pills.
- Binge eating: People with this condition eat
uncontrollably, but they don't purge.
- EDNOS: This term refers to “eating
disorders not otherwise specified”. According to the ANAD, 52 percent of people with an
eating disorder have EDNOS.
cause of eating disorders is unknown, but several factors can contribute to the
disease. Eating disorders may begin in the teen and young adult years when many
people are preoccupied with their self-image. This illness can run in families.
Some emotional disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression,
increase the risk for an eating disorder.
disorders can have serious, life-threatening complications, it’s important to
get help for these conditions. But before a doctor can treat anorexia, bulimia,
or binge eating, they have to diagnose the condition.
may deny a problem, but certain signs can indicate a problem with food.
physical evaluations and psychological evaluations to diagnose eating disorders.
They’ll also make sure you meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder
as outlined in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American
Psychiatric Association (APA).
physical exam, your doctor may check your height, weight, and vital signs.
Since eating disorders can cause high or low blood pressure, slow breathing,
and slow pulse rates, doctors also listen to lungs and heart.
of your abdomen may take place. Additionally, your doctor may check your skin
and hair for dryness, or look for brittle nails. Doctors may ask about any
other possible problems, like a sore throat or intestinal issues, which can be
complications of bulimia.
disorders damage the body and cause problems with vital organs, doctors may run
many laboratory tests. These can include a complete blood count, a liver,
kidney and thyroid function tests, and a urinalysis.
may also order an X-ray to look for broken bones, which can be a sign of bone
loss from anorexia or bulimia. An electrocardiogram can check for heart
irregularities. Your doctor may examine your teeth for signs of decay, which is
another symptom of an eating disorder.
diagnose eating disorders based entirely on a physical exam. A psychological
evaluation by a mental health doctor is also required.
will ask several questions related to your eating habits. Their goal is to understand
your attitude toward food and eating, plus get an idea of how you perceive your
body. These questions can become personal, especially when the discussions
focus on your dieting, binging, purging, or extreme exercise habits. It's
important to answer honestly. This way, your doctor can make an accurate
diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment plan.
Review Diagnostic Criteria for Eating Disorders
diagnosed with an eating disorder, you must meet the criteria for a specific
type of disorder. Signs and symptoms of eating disorders vary, but may include:
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
or fainting spells
hair and nails
Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
of gaining weight
use of weight loss supplements
using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
Symptoms of binge eating include:
unusual large portions of food
until uncomfortably full
on eating alone to hide disorder
dieting, but not losing weight
- depression and anxiety
In the United
States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders,
including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder at some
point in their life, according to the National
Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). It's a serious illness that can lead to
life-threatening complications like organ failure and death. But with a timely
diagnosis, you can receive necessary treatment and live a long, healthy life.