Clinical Diagnosis of Anorexia

There are a number of measures that GPs and mental health professionals use to diagnose someone with Anorexia Nervosa. These include:

  • Body weight maintained at least 15% below what is expected for a person’s height.
  • Self induced weight loss using one or more of the following methods:
    • Avoiding fattening foods.
    • Restricting food to very small amounts or starving completely.
    • Excessive exercise.
    • Taking laxatives, diet pills or diuretics.
    • Purging by inducing vomiting.
  • An overwhelming fear of putting on weight, or maintaining a ‘normal’ weight/BMI.
  • Body dysmorphia is often present meaning the anorexic sufferer is unable to see their body size and shape the way that other people do, often feeling and believing they are ‘fat’ even when at low body weights.
  • Often someone with anorexia will have ‘rules’ regarding food, either with deciding how much or little they will eat, or what they need to do after eating to compensate – often through purging or exercising.
  • Food rituals are common with cutting food into small pieces, eating foods that are prepared in a certain way, or weighing and measuring food precisely. Some anorexics hide food to dispose of later to avoid eating. Ensuring other members of the family are ‘well fed’ can be a part of the ritual. Eating excessively slowly, avoiding eating with other people or not wanting to be the first to finish.
  • Anorexia sufferers pursue very low ‘ideal’ weights and often once they meet this target the goal posts are moved and an even lower target is set.
  • Weight loss may cause hormonal disturbances and women with anorexia may stop having periods. Young children or teenagers may delay puberty and the start of periods.