Eating disorders are diagnosed based on signs, symptoms, and eating habits. Physical and psychological exams and tests are done to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
Eating disorders can cause high or low blood pressure, slow breathing, and slow pulse rates. An examination of the abdomen may take place, as well as checking skin and hair for dryness, or looking for brittle nails. A sore throat or intestinal issues can be complications of bulimia.
Since eating disorders damage the body and cause problems with vital organs, doctors may run many laboratory tests. These can include a complete blood count, a liver, kidney and thyroid function tests, and urinalysis. X-rays look for broken bones, which can be a sign of bone loss from anorexia or bulimia.
An electrocardiogram can check for heart irregularities. The doctor may examine teeth for signs of decay, which is another symptom of an eating disorder.
A psychological evaluation by a mental health doctor will ask questions related to eating habits to understand the patient’s attitude toward food and eating, plus get an idea of how they perceive their body. These questions can become personal, especially when the discussions focus on dieting, binging, purging, or extreme exercise habits.
Each eating disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria. Some people may not meet all of the criteria but still have an eating disorder and need professional help to overcome or manage it.