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Diagnosing Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are divided into several diagnostic categories, based on the types of symptoms present. These diagnoses inform the treatment approach used for each disorder, and indicate the duration and efficacy of the treatment. Only a medical or mental health professional is qualified to diagnose an eating disorder. Below are the diagnostic criteria for each disorder.

Anorexia nervosa

  • Presence of one or more of the symptoms below may indicate anorexia nervosa:
  • Unwillingness to maintain normal body weight, specifically the individual’s body weight is less than 85% of that expected for the individual given age, height, and frame.
  • Fear of gaining weight or concern about becoming fat despite being extremely thin
  • Inconsistencies in the person’s perceived appearance and weight, unable to acknowledge being thin
  • Undue influence of body weight on person’s self-worth
  • Denial of seriousness of current low body weight
  • The absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles in postmenarcheal women

Bulimia Nervosa

Presence of several of the symptoms below may indicate bulimia nervosa:

  • Recurrent binge-eating. A binge is defined by eating an amount of food larger than most people would eat in similar circumstances, during a discrete period of time.
  • Binges are characterized by the feeling of being unable to control the amount eaten.
  • Binges are followed by unhealthy compensatory behavior, including use of laxatives, inducing vomiting, or over-exercise.
  • This pattern must be present for an average of two times weekly, for a minimum of three months.
  • Undue influence of body weight on person’s self-worth

Binge-eating disorder

Presence of the symptoms below may indicate Binge-eating disorder:

  • Recurrent binge-eating. A binge is defined by eating an amount of food larger than most people would eat in similar circumstances, during a discrete period of time.
  • Binges are characterized by the feeling of being unable to control the amount eaten.
  • Binges are not followed by unhealthy compensatory behavior such, as use of laxatives, inducing vomiting, or over-exercise.