Study Finds Eating Disorder Diagnoses may be Too Strict

Though a small percentage of the population is affected by the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia, the issues can be debilitating in many areas of life and can also be fatal. Continuing research into the causes and indicators of these concerns has a high priority among many within the medical and psychological communities, but as one recent study performed at Stanford University suggests, current diagnosis criteria may be lacking. The study was conducted by an instructor in adolescent medicine and specialist in eating disorders at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and sought to identify and understand the potential efficacy of modern diagnoses for anorexia, bulimia, and eating disorder not otherwise specified, referred to as EDNOS.

The researcher suspected that because a significant number of clients are grouped together under the EDNOS category and do not receive the same treatment as those diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, a large number of clients may receive inadequate treatment or be lead to believe that they do not possess any serious or life-threatening issue. After following clients diagnosed with EDNOS, the researcher found that a significant number exhibited serious symptoms of malnutrition and were otherwise in need of medical or psychological care, or both, despite their categorization as less severe cases.

In particular, the work showed that some clients, such as those who had lost excessive amounts of weight very quickly due to malnutrition or other dangerous behaviors, were not given serious diagnoses because their clinical presentation for body weight did not meet diagnostic expectations –and issue the research suggests may be widespread, and must be addressed to ensure both physical and psychological health among eating disorder clients. Though parents of adolescents and children whoa re not diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia may feel relieved, the researcher points out, education and special care may still be needed.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Cristie


    April 15th, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    A person’s health should not be assessed based on theoretical figures, but on a situational basis…it will then lead to a better rate of diagnosing any disorder and thereby rectifying it in time rather than putting the person in danger.

  • molly


    April 16th, 2010 at 3:13 AM

    So we are saying here that just because someone has not gotten thin enough that they may not qualify as having an eating disorder even though it may be obvious to the whole family that he or she does? Jeez these paramaters like this drive me insane. How can anyone get the treatment that he or she needs when there are wacky policies like this in effect for hospitals and probably insurance companies too? If someone is exhibiting unhealthy eating patterns over time and losing extreme amounts of weight or seems to be out of control with the issue, does this not speak volumes about what is going on with this person and that they need help?

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