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Diagnosis of an Eating Disorder

“We just knew something was wrong.”

Often, a mother or father is the first to suspect something is wrong, and suspect an eating problem. It can also happen that the first suspicion of an eating disorder comes from a physician or coach or friend. If an eating disorder is suspected, it is important to know that eating disorders are not something a person chooses to do, nor is it a sign of poor parenting.

Recognizing Symptoms

Unfortunately, there are no blood tests or simple diagnostic tools to identify an eating disorder. Further complicating the matter, the symptoms and signs of an eating disorder are rarely clear-cut at early stages, and differ between children and adults, men, and women, and each person’s course of illness will be unique. Generally, eating disorders are divided into three categories: restrictive eating (anorexia) and binging/purging (bulimia) and binging only (Binge Eating Disorder).

For a simplified online screening tool: PsychCentral Eating Attitudes Screening.

Feed Your Instinct is an online interactive tool that can be used by parents of children and young adults to create a document to take to a health care provider.  It was developed by the Center of Excellence in Eating Disorders (CEED) in Australia, but can be used worldwide.

  F.E.A.S.T. Quick Link:

Warning Signs Parents May Observe

Diagnostic Criteria

The two most common diagnostic classification systems for eating disorders are:

  F.E.A.S.T. Resource Link:

“Down the Rabbit Hole,” A Family Guide to coming to terms with an Eating Disorder Diagnosis

If you have concerns, follow your instincts and get the advice of an eating disorders specialist – not a general practitioner (who may not have recent training in eating disorders). Eating disorder specialists should be recently trained and engaged in ongoing education in the field.

Most specialists are active members of:

*IAEDP also offers certification for clinicians:

  • Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (CEDS) in mental health, or
  • Certified Eating Disorders Specialist in Nutrition (CEDSN)