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What Is Eating Disorder Evaluation?

An Eating Disorder Testing and Evaluation involves a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s physical and mental health. This helps in understanding the underlying factors contributing to the eating disorder, such as genetic predispositions, psychological triggers, social influences, or co-occurring mental health conditions. A thorough evaluation allows healthcare professionals to address these factors holistically and develop an effective treatment approach. These professionals will conduct patient mental health assessments, medical examinations, and laboratory tests of blood samples. Checking for additional health problems is crucial, as disordered eating can have many harmful side effects.

Evaluations can also be valuable in a preventive context. They provide an opportunity to educate individuals, families, and communities about the signs, risks, and consequences of eating disorders. By raising awareness and promoting early intervention, evaluations contribute to the prevention of eating disorders and the promotion of positive body image and healthy relationships with food.

Clinical Guidelines for a Diagnosis of Eating Disorders

Clinical guidelines for the diagnosis of Eating Disorders provide a standardized framework for healthcare professionals to assess and diagnose these conditions.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) diagnostic criteria for eating disorders outlines central elements of eating disorders. It provides specific diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and other specified feeding and eating disorders. These criteria include behavioral, psychological, and physical indicators that must be met for a formal diagnosis. While the specifics vary based on each eating disorder, some common components are:

  • Disordered eating involving binging and purging or intake restriction
  • Obsessive concern with weight
  • Being underweight

Online Eating Disorder Tests and Quizzes

Online eating disorder tests and quizzes can be a helpful initial screening tool to raise awareness and encourage individuals to seek professional evaluation.

They generally aim to screen for potential eating disorder symptoms or risk factors in a self-report questionnaire format.  The accuracy of online assessments relies on the honesty and self-awareness of the person completing the questionnaire. Individuals may underestimate or overestimate their symptoms, leading to an inaccurate result. Furthermore, self-reporting may not capture underlying psychological or emotional factors contributing to the eating disorder.

It is important to remember that online assessments, tests, and quizzes typically provide automated results based on pre-established algorithms. These results are generalized and do not offer personalized interpretation or clinical judgment. Mental Health America offers a free and confidential eating disorder quiz to take online. Taking an eating disorder test doesn’t replace an official eating disorder diagnosis, but it can help people identify when they need professional help. In some cases, people don’t realize that the way they eat is disordered, and an online quiz can provide some clarity.

If you find yourself wondering “do I have an eating disorder?” or “do I have anorexia?”, taking an online quiz may be the first step to seeking professional help.

Diagnostic Exams and Tests for Anorexia Nervosa

During a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, doctors usually conduct a range of tests to rule out any other reason for the weight loss.

An anorexia diagnosis test will include:

  • Physical examination. Weight, height, BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature will be recorded.
  • Laboratory tests. By examining a blood sample electrolytes and protein levels will be checked, and the functioning of organs (liver and kidneys) will be assessed.
  • Psychological evaluation. A psychiatrist or mental health professional will inquire about thoughts, feelings, and eating habits. Sometimes, a self-assessment questionnaire is completed to check for any overlapping mental health conditions.

Find one of our mental health care clinics near you to schedule a testing and evaluation for anorexia nervosa.

Diagnostic Exams and Tests for Bulimia Nervosa

The process of diagnosing bulimia nervosa includes many diagnostic examinations and tests:

  • Physical examination. Weight, height, BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature will be recorded. Individuals with bulimia nervosa are usually normal weight to slightly overweight.
  • Laboratory tests. By examining a blood sample electrolytes and protein levels will be checked, and the functioning of organs (liver and kidneys) will be assessed.
  • Psychological evaluation. A psychiatrist will evaluate to determine attitudes toward eating. The SCOFF questionnaire is helpful to identify patients that meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia nervosa.

Find one of our mental health care clinics near you to schedule a testing and evaluation for bulimia nervosa.

Diagnostic Exams and Tests for ARFID

A person with ARFID doesn’t restrict their food intake because of physical appearance concerns, but due to sensory sensitivities or fears surrounding food.

ARFID tests and diagnostic exams include:

  • Physical examination. Weight, height, BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature will be recorded, to identify any additional health concerns.
  • Laboratory tests. By examining a blood sample electrolytes and protein levels will be checked, and the functioning of organs (liver and kidneys) will be assessed.
  • Psychological evaluation. There is no disturbance in body image with ARFID, meaning a psychiatrist will have to rule out anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Reasons behind their restricted eating may be identified by a psychiatrist.

Find one of our mental health care clinics near you to schedule a testing and evaluation for ARFID.

Standardized Screening for Eating Disorders

Standardized screening for eating disorders involves the use of validated tools or questionnaires to assess the presence of eating disorder symptoms or risk factors. These screening measures can help identify individuals who may be at risk or who should undergo further evaluation by healthcare professionals. Here are some commonly used standardized screening tools for eating disorders: SCOFF Questionnaire, Eating Attitude Test (EAT), Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care (ESP), Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q), and Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale (EDDS).

The SCOFF is a brief five-question screening tool used to identify eating disorders in people of all ages. The SCOFF questionnaire is a short and easy-to-use tool for assessing the presence of anorexia and bulimia. The questionnaire includes five questions related to self-control, weight loss, body image and the role of food in a person’s life.

The questions included in the SCOFF questionnaire are scored one for “yes” answers and zero points are given for answering “no” to a question. A cut-off point of two points or greater out of five suggests an eating disorder. The SCOFF Questionnaire is helpful for identifying potential cases of eating disorders but shouldn’t be used on its own to formally diagnose a condition.

These questions include:

  1. Do you make yourself vomit (Sick) because you feel uncomfortably full?
  2. Do you worry that you have lost Control over how much you eat?
  3. Have you recently lost more than 15 pounds (One stone) in a 3-month period?
  4. Do you believe you are Fat when others say you are too thin?
  5. Would you say that Food dominates your life?

The Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) is a widely used self-report questionnaire that assesses eating disorder attitudes and behaviors over the past 28 days. It evaluates various domains, including dietary restraint, eating concerns, weight concerns, and shape concerns. The scores obtained can indicate the severity of eating disorder symptoms.

The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) is a self-report questionnaire that assesses attitudes and behaviors related to eating disorders. It evaluates factors such as dieting, food preoccupation, fear of gaining weight, and body dissatisfaction. The EAT is commonly used as a screening tool, but it is important to note that it is not diagnostic.

Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care (ESP) is a brief, self-report screening tool designed specifically for primary care settings. It includes questions related to eating disorder symptoms, body dissatisfaction, and weight concerns.

Eating Disorder Diagnostic Scale (EDDS) is a self-report questionnaire that screens for various eating disorder symptoms, including restrictive eating, binge eating, and compensatory behaviors. It also assesses body dissatisfaction and other associated psychological factors.

Eating Disorder Evaluation for Children Under 12

While Pediatric eating disorders are common, evaluation and diagnosis of eating disorders in children under 12 presents some unique challenges compared to older age groups.

Younger children may have limited verbal and cognitive skills, making it challenging for them to accurately articulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to food and eating. They may struggle to express their experiences, making it difficult to obtain a comprehensive understanding of their eating patterns and attitudes. In younger children, the presentation of eating disorder symptoms can overlap with other conditions, such as feeding disorders, sensory processing difficulties, or anxiety disorders.Parents and caregivers are often the primary source of information about the child’s eating behaviors, growth patterns, and emotional well-being. Collaborating closely with parents is essential for gathering accurate data and understanding the context in which the eating disorder symptoms manifest.

At LifeStance mental health care centers we apply a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating eating disorders in children under 12. Our child psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists can provide a comprehensive understanding of the child’s needs and guide treatment planning. Find one of our mental health care clinics near you to schedule a testing and evaluation for your child.

Eating Disorder Evaluation for Teens

Adolescents and young adults are particularly at higher risk for developing eating disorders.

For example, approximately 90 percent of all diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are girls and women between 12 and 25 years of age. Overall, girls with eating disorders outnumber boys by about 10 to 1.

The difference between normal adolescent eating behaviors and disordered eating may be subtle. Many teenagers skip meals (especially breakfast), occasionally binge, or sometimes feel dissatisfied with their bodies. Frequent deprivation, bingeing, purging behaviors, secrecy around eating, or dissatisfaction around eating, are danger signs.

Early detection of eating disorders can be lifesaving for teens. The physical, emotional, and social changes that accompany this period make adolescents vulnerable to other risk factors in their environments.

The evaluation typically starts with a thorough clinical interview to gather information about their eating behaviors, body image concerns, and any associated psychological symptoms.

The next step is a medical examination to assess the teenager’s overall health status and any physical complications associated with the eating disorder, such as electrolyte imbalances, cardiac abnormalities, or bone health issues. Additional tests, such as bone density scans or electrocardiograms, may be recommended if there are concerns about physical health.

Involving the teenager’s family in the evaluation process is crucial, as they can provide important information about the teenager’s eating behaviors, family dynamics, and potential contributing factors. Find one of our mental health care clinics near you to schedule a testing and evaluation for your teen.

photo of LifeStance provider Jill Matusek, PhD
Clinically Reviewed By:
Jill Matusek, PhD
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Dr. Matusek has published and presented internationally on eating disorders and other mental health issues. In addition to eating disorder treatment, her specialty areas of interest are anxiety and mood disorders, women’s issues, and spiritual concerns.