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5 Ways Eating Disorder Screening Can Help

Eating disorders are some of the most misunderstood mental illnesses. While many misconceptions exist, it’s important to understand that these are serious medical conditions.

It is not just about food and weight. Eating disorder is a type of mental illness that can affect health and well-being. It can also lead to severe medical complications, including death. Thus, it’s vital to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Screening for eating disorders can help identify the signs and provide treatment options for anyone who needs them. Read on to learn more about the importance of screening and how it can help.

Importance of Eating Disorder Screening

Eating disorders can be life-threatening, yet many people do not seek treatment. It is partly because eating disorders are not well understood. Hence, many people believe they are just a phase or a diet gone wrong.

However, eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can be fatal if left untreated. The longer they go undetected, the more serious they become. Thus, screening for eating disorders is vital to help identify them as soon as possible so anyone can access appropriate treatment options.

Eating disorder screening involves asking questions and conducting physical examinations. It also involves ruling out other conditions that could mimic eating disorders and medication side effects.

How Eating Disorders Are Diagnosed

Eating disorders are not easy to diagnose. Many people with anorexia or bulimia will go years without a proper diagnosis. It is because eating disorders are often dismissed as “just a phase” by those who don’t understand them.

However, with the help of medical professionals and the right tools, it’s possible to get an accurate diagnosis. Below are some of the ways an eating disorder can be diagnosed.

Screening Questionnaires

A screening questionnaire is a short survey that’s designed to help doctors identify people who may have an eating disorder. The survey questions focus on symptoms, behaviors, and attitudes related to eating disorders.

Some of the most commonly used questionnaires are:

The Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) 

This survey is based on the criteria set forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The questionnaire assesses different eating disorder symptoms, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

The Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI)

This questionnaire is designed to assess the severity of symptoms related to eating disorders. The questionnaire also helps doctors determine whether a person is at risk for developing an eating disorder or has already developed one.

The Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ)

This questionnaire is designed to assess the body image issues common among people with eating disorders. The questionnaire is also used to determine the severity of eating disorders. The questionnaire consists of questions that measure perceptions about one’s body shape, weight, and height.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The Body Mass Index (BMI) measures body fat based on height and weight. It is a number calculated from an individual’s weight and height, which can be used to indicate whether they are underweight, average weight, or overweight. It is important but not the only factor in an eating disorder diagnosis.

Labs And Other Tests

No specific blood or lab tests are used to diagnose an eating disorder. However, you may be asked to take other tests when your doctor tries to determine if it’s the cause of your symptoms. These include a complete blood count (CBC) and possibly other tests that measure electrolytes, kidney function, liver enzymes, thyroid hormone levels, and levels of vitamins A and D.

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

People with eating disorders often exhibit physical, behavioral, and emotional signs and symptoms. These can vary greatly depending on the type of eating disorder and individual factors such as age, sex, and physical health status.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of eating disorders. You may have an eating disorder if you experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though underweight
  • Restrictive dieting (starving oneself) or binging (overeating)
  • Extreme weight gain or weight loss
  • Vomiting or using laxatives to get rid of food
  • Extreme aversion to certain foods
  • Obsession with calories in foods or exercise
  • Frequent weighing and measuring of self

5 Ways On How Screening Can Help In Eating Disorder

Screening is the first step in identifying eating disorders. Screening helps identify people at risk of developing an eating disorder and those who need to be referred for further assessment. The earlier someone receives help for an eating disorder, the greater their chances are of recovery. 

Here are some of its advantages to further convince you of its importance.

It Can Help Can Help Identify Eating Disorder Early On

Eating disorders often go undiagnosed because they are not well understood by many people. They can be challenging to identify, and the symptoms may be similar to those of other conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

Screening is an important first step in identifying eating disorders and getting help. It can also help identify people at risk of developing an eating disorder, allowing them to be referred for treatment before they develop one.

There are many different types of eating disorders. The three most common are:

Anorexia Nervosa

It is characterized by a severe fear of gaining weight and intense fixation on being thin. Those who have anorexia often restrict the amount they eat, sometimes to the point of starvation. They may also engage in behaviors like excessive exercise or self-induced vomiting after eating.

Bulimia Nervosa

It is distinguished with binge eating and purging (using laxatives or diuretics) at least twice a week for three months. People with bulimia often feel out of control when they eat large amounts of food. Then, they try to compensate for it afterward by vomiting or using laxatives so their bodies won’t store any fat from the meal.

Binge-Eating Disorder

It is identified by frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. People with binge-eating disorder may eat uncontrollably even when they’re not hungry. They also feel depressed, ashamed, or guilty after these episodes of overeating.


It is recurrent eating of nonfood items, such as ice or dirt. Eating of nonfood items may last for several months and cause serious health problems. Pica is more common in children than adults but can persist into adulthood.

Rumination disorder

It is persistent regurgitation of food, which is then rechewed and re-swallowed. This behavior is more common in infants and toddlers than in adults. It can cause malnutrition or choke if large amounts of food are repeatedly swallowed and regurgitated.

Restrictive food intake disorder

It is the persistent restriction of food. It results in significantly low body weight and is accompanied by a distressing sense of being overweight despite being underweight. This disorder differs from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa because it is not associated with binge eating or purging behaviors.

It Can Help You To Find The Right Treatment

Eating disorders are complex, and multiple treatment types are available for each. To best determine which treatment is needed, healthcare professionals need to have an understanding of the patient’s symptoms and diagnosis. This can be achieved through screening and evaluation.

Some people may need only a few sessions with a therapist, while others may need to be hospitalized. Screening can help determine the best course of action for each patient. They can then decide whether they should be referred to specialists such as psychiatrists or psychologists with experience treating eating disorders.

There are many types of treatment available for people with eating disorders. Among the options are:


It is a form of talking therapy that aims to help people understand their thoughts and feelings more clearly. The therapist will also help the patient develop strategies to cope with their eating disorder and other related issues. This type of treatment is often used as a first step toward recovery. It can also be used alongside other treatments, such as family therapy or specialist eating disorder support groups.

Nutritional counseling

It is where a qualified dietitian will assess the patient’s eating habits and make recommendations on how to improve their diet. The aim is to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need while reducing or eliminating any harmful behaviors associated with their eating disorder.

Family-based treatment

It involves the whole family meeting together with a trained therapist to learn how to support the patient and help them recover from their eating disorder. The aim is for all members of the family to learn coping strategies.

Group therapy

It involves meeting up with a group of people who have similar problems as yours. The aim is for you to learn from each other and gain support from your peers. The therapist will lead the group and help them work through any issues.


Some people with eating disorders may benefit from medication. It can be used to help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The type of medication prescribed will depend on the individual’s needs, but some common examples include antidepressants and antipsychotics.

In-patient treatment

It is the most intensive form of therapy for severe cases. It involves staying in a hospital or clinic for several weeks or months. You’ll also receive support from other healthcare professionals, such as therapists and psychiatrists.

It Can Rule Out Other Underlying Health Conditions

Eating disorders are not just mental health issues. They can be caused by an underlying physical health problem such as anemia, hypoglycemia, or thyroid disease. The doctor will perform blood tests to rule out these conditions and ensure that they’re not the root cause of your eating disorder.

They can also rule out other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It is because the symptoms of these conditions are often similar to those of eating disorders.

It Can Give You Insights Into Yourself And Your Health

By finding out what’s causing your eating disorder, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your health. It is especially important if the root cause isn’t obvious. It can also help you develop future strategies for managing it.

For example, if you have an eating disorder caused by stress, then learning how to manage stress will be vital for your recovery. If you have an eating disorder that is caused by low self-esteem, then learning how to address it will be a crucial part of your recovery.

Helps Health Professionals Keep Track Of Their Patient’s Progress

One of the most critical functions of screening is to help doctors and other health professionals keep track of their patient’s progress. It will enable them to determine whether the patient needs additional treatment or is doing well enough with what they have been given so far.

If a patient is not progressing, this could mean something is wrong apart from an eating disorder. The doctor will then refer the patient to another specialist.

What Should I Expect During My Eating Disorder Screening?

The screening process is quick and easy. It usually takes no more than 15 minutes to complete, and many people find it helpful to have their parents or other caregivers present during the screening.

The first step is to fill out a questionnaire about your eating habits, feelings about food, body image issues, and any other related issues. Next is a brief interview with your doctor. They will ask you questions about the answers you provided on the questionnaire.

Finally, the doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also order blood tests to rule out other medical conditions causing your symptoms. If you need more specialized care, they will refer you to a therapist specializing in eating disorders or another mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist.

What Do I Need To Prepare For Eating Disorder Screening?

The best way to prepare is to make a list of any symptoms you’ve experienced and bring it with you to your appointment. If you have questions about what the doctor will ask during screening, bring those questions along too. It will help ensure that the process goes smoothly and quickly.

Final Note

Eating disorder treatment is a long road. It can take years, or even decades, for someone to fully recover from an eating disorder. But with the right help and support, you can get there. If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. The sooner you get treatment, the better off you’ll be.