I had no idea that eating disorders are often misdiagnosed or overlooked

Welcome back! Today we’re going to be talking about medical professionals and the role they play in preventing, diagnosing, and treating eating disorders.

(If you missed them, check out my posts on diversity in eating disorders, eating disorders in athletes, eating disorders and bullying, and diets and eating disorders).

The role of medical professionals in eating disorder treatment is crucial. Unfortunately, due to a lack of information or education about some of the lesser-known eating disorders or the wide range of eating disorder symptoms and behaviors, it’s not uncommon for eating disorders to be overlooked or misdiagnosed.


Obviously, the best way to help people become more able to identify disordered behaviors in their patients, their loved ones, or themselves is through education (once a teacher, always a teacher, I guess!). So I’ve done some research on areas where eating disorders are less easily diagnosed.

It’s no surprise that eating disorders are often underdiagnosed in groups that don’t fit the stereotypical profile of an eating disorder patient. For instance, when I searched ‘underdiagnosed eating disorders‘, the first two full pages of links were about men and eating disorders.

Furthermore, eating disorders that don’t fall into straightforward categories like anorexia and bulimia are often diagnosed (even within those categories, bulimia can be underdiagnosed since sufferers can be at or above a ‘normal’ weight, making it harder for those around them to notice their issue).

For example, EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) has been called one of the most lethal eating disorders, largely because it’s underdiagnosed and often undertreated. Paradoxically, it’s actually the most prevalent eating disorder.

Somewhat confusingly, EDNOS has been reclassified as OSFED in the DSM-V (which some people find frustrating, as EDNOS was already less well-known than more familiar eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia). Here’s a post that clarifies some of the changes and an OSFED fact sheet.

Diabulimia, another incredibly dangerous eating disorder, is not yet formally recognized by the medical community, making its diagnosis and treatment much more difficult than more familiar eating disorders.

So how can medical professionals become more informed about these and other lesser-known eating disorders?

Well, you can can download the Academy for Eating Disorders’ guide to recognizing and managing eating disorders.

Here’s a guide for medical professionals on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eating disorders, featuring tons of helpful links to resources.

Take a look at the American Medical Association’s course on screening and managing eating disorders in primary practice.

If you’re not a medical professional but want to encourage your doctor (or friends who are doctors) to learn more, NEDA has provided these handy info cards that you can discretely leave at your doctor’s office.


If you’ve been reading my posts this week, you know you can join the conversation about eating disorders this week by using the Twitter hashtag #NEDAwareness all week.

Today at noon Eastern Time, join a special Tweet Chat, What You Don’t Know Can Hurt… Your Patients: Medical Professionals & Eating Disorders, featuring Dr. Edward Tyson, the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, the Liberation Center, and the Academy for Eating Disorders.

If you’re a parent and want to learn more about eating disorders before your child’s next doctor’s visit, take a look at NEDA’s toolkit for parents or Rochester Children’s Hospital’s information for parents.

If you’re concerned about your own thoughts or behaviors related to food and weight and are wondering if it’s time to see a doctor, take an online self-assessment (you can also take it for someone you’re worried about), or find a screening location near you (in the US).

One response to “I had no idea that eating disorders are often misdiagnosed or overlooked

  1. Pingback: Eating disorder awareness week: An epilogue | I was a high-school feminist·

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