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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 (anorexic) and binging/purging (bulimic) and binging only (Binge Eating Disorder).

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

  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 (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) also offers certification for clinicians:

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


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F.E.A.S.T. (FAMILIES EMPOWERED AND SUPPORTING TREATMENT OF EATING DISORDERS) | US +1 855-50-FEAST | Canada +1 647-247-1339 | Australia +61 731886675 | UK +44 3308280031

F.E.A.S.T. is registered as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. Information on this site is meant to support, not replace, professional consultation. Unless otherwise noted, content is edited by F.E.A.S.T. volunteers with assistance from our Professional Advisory Panel.

  F.E.A.S.T. | P.O. Box 1281| Warrenton, VA 20188 USA