Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Diagnosis of Eating Disorders

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. This will involve questions about your eating habits and how you control your weight.

Each eating disorder has its own group of symptoms and food habits. These, along with a physical exam, may point to an eating disorder.

Tests

You may have:

  • Blood tests—to check electrolyte or mineral levels
  • Urine tests—to check for certain proteins or kidney problems
  • Bone density tests
  • ECG—to check your heart

Psychological Exam

A series of certain tests and questionnaires will be done. These check you for eating disorders and other mental health problems. Depression and anxiety are common in people with eating disorders.

These, along with other test results and your physical exam, will help the doctor confirm a diagnosis.

Anorexia

Anorexia may cause:

  • Taking in less calories than is needed for your age, gender, and health. This leads to a very low body weight.
  • A strong fear of gaining weight. This involves actions to stop weight gain, even when body weight is very low.
  • Having a poor body image and distorted view about your own weight. This happens even when body weight is very low.

Bulimia

Bulimia may cause:

  • The back of your teeth to wear away. This happens because of the acid in vomit.
  • Scratches on the back of your hands from your teeth. This happens when you force yourself to vomit.
  • Binge eating episodes when you feel like you've lost control.
  • Purging after bingeing. This can involve forced vomiting, laxative use, fasting, or exercise. These are used to prevent weight gain.
  • Both of the above happen at least once a week for 3 months.
  • Having a poor body image and distorted view about your own weight.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) may cause:

  • Eating too much food with a feeling that you've lost control.
  • Eating far more than an average person would in about 2 hours.
  • BED is with 3 or more of:
    • Eating faster than normal.
    • Eating until you feel overly full.
    • Eating large amounts without feeling hungry.
    • Eating alone because of shame.
    • Feelings of sadness, guilt, or disgust after eating.
    • Purging doesn't follow binge eating.
  • This happens at least once a week for 3 months.
  • Eating causes persistent distress.
REFERENCES:

About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders. Accessed September 5, 2018.

Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114614/Anorexia-nervosa. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 5, 2018.

Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T563461/Binge-eating-disorder. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 5, 2018.

Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa. Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed September 5, 2018.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2018. Accessed September 5, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 9/5/2018