Key Takeaways Key Takeaways
  • Online Eating Disorder screening tools offer a private and accessible first step for seeking help.

  • Almost 86% of individuals with positive screenings do not take Step Two (received an official diagnosis or treatment) despite that Eating Disorders are serious mental illnesses with high mortality rates and medical complications.

  • A comprehensive treatment plan, including psychotherapy, nutrition counseling, medication, and support groups, is crucial for effective recovery.

Why the Second Step is Really the Most Challenging in Overcoming an Eating Disorder

In the complex field of behavioral health, pushing the envelope in pursuit of innovative approaches to patient care is at the forefront. This holds especially true for Disordered Eating – a complex and oft-misunderstood facet of mental health which requires precise and reliable assessment methods.

Diagnosing eating disorders can be challenging due to the complex variables that are commonly associated with the diagnosis:

  • the varied symptoms they present
  • the specific diagnostic criteria that may not capture the full spectrum of disordered eating behaviors
  • the frequent co-occurrence of other mental health conditions
  • the denial and shame individuals often experience
  • the lack of awareness and stigma surrounding eating disorders
  • the potential overshadowing of physical health complications

These factors highlight the need for thorough assessments that take into account comprehensive histories and utilize multidisciplinary collaboration. Overall, a careful consideration of individual experiences and cultural contexts is required to ensure accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment planning.

For many patients the easiest first step to get diagnosed with an eating disorder is an online diagnosis evaluation.

As a rule, eating disorder sufferers tend to be hesitant to seek help in person due to feelings of shame, fear of judgment, or concerns about confidentiality. Online screening tools offer a level of anonymity and privacy, allowing individuals to assess their symptoms and behaviors in a more comfortable and non-threatening environment. Additionally, some individuals may not have immediate access to specialized healthcare professionals or resources in their area, making online screening tools a convenient and accessible option. These tools can serve as a starting point for self-reflection and awareness, helping individuals recognize the presence of disordered eating patterns and encouraging them to seek further evaluation and support.

Eating Disorders are serious mental illnesses, and mortality from Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is the highest of all psychiatric disorders, with the risk of premature death 6-12 times higher in individuals with AN compared to the general population, adjusting for age. In addition, Eating Disorders are associated with high levels of psychiatric comorbidity, and medical complications that can affect every organ in one’s system.

However, according to the 2019 study conducted in partnership with National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), of those who screened positive for an eating disorder, 85.9% had never received treatment. Over 71,000 adults in this study had completed an NEDA online screen and the majority screened positive for a clinical/subclinical eating disorder.

When the online screening test suggests the presence of an eating disorder, it can be a significant and emotional moment for an individual. Denial or avoidance can be common reactions, but becoming aware that an eating disorder may be present is the first step toward healing. Awareness is essential for accessing the appropriate help and support. Sharing the screening test results with a trusted friend, family member, or loved one can provide emotional support during this challenging time. Speaking openly about these concerns can help break the isolation that often accompanies eating disorders and encourage an individual to take further steps toward seeking professional help.

While taking an online test is a significant step (Step One), actually confirming a diagnosis with a mental health care professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or an eating disorder specialist (Step Two) is the crucial – and more difficult – step that will start the journey toward recovery.

A mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive assessment to verify the presence and ascertain the severity of the disorder and begin to develop a treatment plan.

Once diagnosed, the doctor will come up with a specialized treatment tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. Eating Disorder treatment options may include psychotherapy, nutrition counseling, medication, and support groups. A comprehensive approach, which may involve a combination of these therapies, is often the most effective in eating disorder recovery.

Taking an online eating disorder screening test and receiving concerning results can be a turning point toward healing. Acknowledging the issue, seeking support, consulting with healthcare professionals, and committing to a personalized treatment plan are vital steps towards recovery. Remember that seeking help is an act of courage, and with the right guidance and support, a person can embark on a transformative journey toward a healthier and happier life.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.


Reviewed By

Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S
Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Nicholette is a faculty member at John Carroll University’s Clinical Counseling program, and she is also the host of the LifeStance podcast, Convos from the Couch.