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  • Writer's pictureGail Hall, LMSW, DCSW, CEDS-S

Assessing Eating Disorders in the Primary Care Setting

Updated: May 8

Individuals with eating disorders often do not recognize the seriousness of their illness and are likely to be ambivalent to making changes. Due to this denial, individuals are often brought to treatment by a family member or friend, even when the individual is past 18 years of age. 


Due to weight, gender, and culture bias, there is a risk of missing an eating disorder when a patient presents who does not conform to a real or imagined stereotype of someone with an eating disorder.  This is especially true for individuals in larger bodies.


1. Do No Harm


When assessing an individual with an eating disorder, don’t minimize concerns or downplay weight changes. Take seriously any concerns from a parent regarding changes in their child’s weight, mood, and functioning. In children, failure to gain expected weight or height, and delayed pubertal development, should be investigated regrading the possibility of an eating disorder. 


Also make sure to avoid any weight, appearance, or food related comments, both regarding patients and yourself or others.


2. Ask The Right Questions


  1. Are you satisfied with your eating patterns?

  2. Do you ever eat in secret? Vomit after eating?

  3. Does your weight affect the way you feel about yourself?

  4. Do you think you are fat even though others say you are too thin?

  5. Do you currently suffer with or have you suffered in the past with an eating disorder?


3. Know The Warning Signs


Familiarize yourself with the most common medical consequences of eating disorders and know the warning signs.


For more information see the NCEED Toolkit for PCP’s.

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