Bulimia nervosa is an eating issue that can be assessed using a variety of diagnostic tools. Because there are many different measures to evaluate bulimia, some researchers believe that overestimation or underestimation of bulimia exists. To cloud the issue further, a large majority of people who have symptoms of bulimia often have comorbid psychological conditions, including mood problems, anxiety, depression, and drug or alcohol use.
Less than half of the individuals who demonstrate bulimic symptoms seek treatment for them. Although many do enter treatment for comorbid issues, the bulimia is often discovered secondarily and does not always receive the attention it deserves. Bulimia can lead to serious negative health outcomes and even suicide. For clinicians to identify those most at risk and intervene at the earliest point possible, it is imperative that consistency in symptom assessment and diagnosis be achieved.
Katie Sandberg of the Department of Education Specialties at Loyola University in Maryland wanted to test the reliability, consistency and validity of the six most commonly used tools for assessing bulimia. She conducted an analysis of existing research involving studies using the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE), the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), the Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3), the Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ), the Bulimic Investigatory Test, Edinburgh (BITE), and the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ).
Sandberg found that all six measures were able to assess bulimic symptoms with relative accuracy, but in unique ways. Based on symptoms of purging, binging, laxative use, and overall body dissatisfaction, she found that the EDI and the EAT were the most reliable at assessing bulimia. When she looked at body dissatisfaction, the BSQ and the EDE emerged as the most reliable tools.
In sum, Sandberg believes these findings show the importance of utilizing multiple screening tools when evaluating clients for bulimia. She said, “The best way for clinicians and researchers to document treatment effects is to use a multitude of high-quality instruments to achieve triangulation.” Further, she believes implementing screening tools before and during treatment can provide clinicians with accurate measures of progress and can help clients and clinicians identify persistent symptoms that need further attention.
Sandberg, Katie, and Bradley T. Erford. “Choosing Assessment Instruments for Bulimia Practice and Outcome Research.” Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD 91.3 (2013): 367-79. ProQuest. Web. 26 July 2013.
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