Health Library

Screening for Eating Disorders

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually given to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Guidelines

Although doctors usually ask about eating and exercise during exams, there are no national screening guidelines for eating disorders. However, the annual National Eating Disorders Screening Program is sponsored by a number of prestigious organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Collegiate Athletic Association. The program incorporates educational materials, a short screening questionnaire, and post-questionnaire follow up by a knowledgeable eating disorders counselor.

Examples of questions from the screening questionnaire include:

  1. Are you terrified about being overweight?
  2. Have you gone on eating binges where you feel you may not be able to stop?
  3. Do you feel extremely guilty after eating?
  4. Do you vomit or have the impulse to vomit after meals?
  5. Do you feel that food controls your life?

References

Anstine D, Grinenko D. Rapid screening for disordered eating in college-aged females in the primary care setting. J Adolesc Health. 2000;26:338-342.

Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml . Updated 2011. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Favaro A, Santonastaso P. Construction and validation of a new screening questionnaires for eating disorders: the inventory for the screening of eating disorders/(ISED). Epidemiol Psychiatr Soc. 2000;9:26-35.

Kaplan DW, Blythe M, et al. Identifying and treating eating disorders: American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Pediatrics. 2003;111:204-211.

McNulty KY, Adams CH, et al. Development and validation of a screening tool to identify eating disorders in female athletes. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001;101:886-892.

National Eating Disorders Screening Program. Screening for Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org/events/national-eating-disorder-screening-program.aspx . Accessed July 11, 2013.

Perry L, Morgan J, et al. Screening for symptoms of eating disorders: reliability of the SCOFF screening tool with written compared to oral delivery. Int J Eat Disord. 2002;32:466-472.