Within the medical profession, eating disorders are usually clinically defined and diagnosed according to the criteria laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5).
Note: the information given below is to help you understand the information you may be given if an eating disorder is diagnosed. It is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis.
If you think you, or someone you know, may have an eating disorder, it is important to seek medical help and get a professional assessment and diagnosis.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognises categories of eating disorders:
About the DSM-5
What is it?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a publication of the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM which contains sets of diagnostic criteria (symptoms being experienced) grouped into categories (disorders) to assist clinicians with the effective diagnoses and care of people with mental health disorders. There are several diagnostic criteria manuals used worldwide, but the DSM is the one used most commonly in Australia.
Who uses it?
During an assessment, a GP or psychiatrists will usually use the criteria from the DSM to match against an individual’s symptoms. This matching process will help them to decide whether the individual meets the diagnosis for a mental health disorder.
This diagnostic information can then be passed on to clinicians, who will be treating the individual, such as a psychologist or dietitian. In some ways, the DSM criteria are a form of shorthand for health professionals to briefly summarise what problems a person is experiencing. This information is then used to assist the treating clinician in selecting the treatments with the best evidence for good outcomes that are associated with the disorder symptoms.
Learn more about the DSM-5