Getting a clear confirmation of an eating disorder can make all the difference

As mentioned in 1. What is an eating disorder?’ seeking expert diagnosis is recommended because some behaviours – such as dieting, weight fluctuation, anxiety, etc. – may be considered part of becoming an adolescent, an individual’s personality, going through menopause, or going on a diet to be ‘healthy’. However if you are concerned it is more than ‘normal behaviour’ get a professional opinion, early intervention  with an eating disorder gives more options and faster recovery. Once you have a diagnosis then a team of professional support and a treatment plan can be formed.

Being open to diagnosis

The first step to seeking diagnosis is to discuss your concerns with the person you think may have an eating disorder. It is not uncommon for the person to deny they have a problem. Shame, denial and secrecy are common characteristics of eating disorders. By reading 2. How to Start a Conversation you now have the key ‘tools’ to discuss the possibility of seeking a professional diagnosis.

Information and care – not judgement and control

Diagnosis may be seen by the person with an eating disorder as a critical judgement. Reinforce that seeking a professional opinion is about information-gathering and options. It is important to reinforce that they get to decide what happens with the diagnostic information – that they are in control, and you, and any professional who may become involved, are there as support.

Still resisting diagnosis?

Is there some leverage you can identify to assist getting them to see a health professional and other types of support? Parents and loved ones use different tactics, these may be financial leverage, an opportunity they want to take up but need to be healthy to do so, or seeking professional help for their own well-being. As a last resort, there are legal options you can pursue. It sounds dramatic, but can be effective and potentially life-saving. Read more about this in 6. Treatment. You will know which approach will work best for your loved one and your situation.

Who is best to diagnose?

Once the person is open to seeking a diagnosis, it can be helpful to offer some suggestions of who might be worth making an appointment with. Although 9% of people in Australia will have an eating disorder at some point in their life (NEDC 2015 ), eating disorders are not included as a significant part of training for most health professionals. This includes GPs. It may be worth considering contacting an eating disorder organisation for a list of experienced GP’s.

Talk it through with…

Eating Disorders Association’s counsellor:
07 3077 7320 Monday – Thursday 9-4pm (Queensland only)

Going to the GP

Your first step to diagnosis is usually going to a GP. The person you suspect may have an eating disorder may want to go alone to the appointment. This is their right. However, it is ideal if you could be there with them to continue to give support and be another pair of ears. Some GP’s are confident to diagnose an eating disorder but many times they will refer you onto a specialist service (EDOS) or a psychiatrist or psychologist.  Some people find they need to use a specialist GP as the family one does not have the skills to diagnose.

Support for Health Workers
“97% of health professionals do not have the knowledge or skill to feel confident to treat people with eating disorders.” NEDC 2015

An overview of the process

This flow path gives the many options people have followed to get to treatment for an eating disorder.  At times carer feel like they are getting the run around or not taken seriously, and unfortunately at times this can be true.  Take a step back review these pathways and find a different option.

EDA website TEIC Website FYI Checklist Call EDA for a list of experienced GPs on (07) 3394 3661 GP Assessment Expert Opinion Sought Medically Stable Medically Unstable

The infographic on the left is interactive but you can also download the full document below.

Download Here

There are specialist eating disorder practitioners in both public and private sector. Call EDA for information and contact details.

Tools to take to your GP

Eating and Body Image Checklist

Online tool developed for parents of teens to answer, then download a report to take to a GP appointment.  It is useful for adults also, the contact information is for Victoria.

Open Checklist


GP Checklist for Eating Disorders

One page form to take to a GP appointment, section 1 completed by either concerned family member or person themselves.  Section 2 for GP to complete. Has Queensland contact information

What to expect in a GP appointment

A summary of how eating disorder experienced GP’s manage their appointments.

Other information and contacts

Official ED Diagnosis System
The official diagnosis system of an eating disorder falls under an international system called DSM-5

Open an Overview

The Eating Issues Centre

Qld wide service that can offer information and support to people with an Eating Disorder without requiring them to have a diagnosis or referral.

View Site

Eating Disorders Outreach Service (EDOS)
Ph: 07 3100 7500 (Australia)
Brisbane-based QLD health organisation supporting health professionals (to then support you and the person you care for); also provide outpatient assessment/diagnosis service – to access any EDOS service you do need to ask your GP for a referral

Talk it through with…

Eating Disorders Association’s support counsellor:
07 3077 7320 Monday – Thursday 9-4pm (Queensland only)
Butterfly Foundation Support Services Monday to Friday 8am – 9pm AEST

  1. ED HOPE 1800 33 4673
  2. Web counselling
Or encourage your loved one to call The Eating Issues Centre on 07 3844 6055 for information and support Tuesday – Friday 9-4pm (Queensland only).
If you would prefer to email we will respond to you during office hours