Do I Have An Eating Disorder? | Eating Disorders Victoria
Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Do I have an eating disorder?

Do I have an eating disorder?

Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Do I have an eating disorder?

The symptoms for eating disorders present differently for each individual, which makes self-diagnosis or diagnosis without a professional’s input extremely difficult and potentially dangerous.

Do I have an eating disorder?

The first step in your journey towards recovery is admitting to yourself that something is wrong.

It doesn’t matter about age, gender, ethnicity or background — anyone can develop an eating disorder. That’s because eating disorders are complex mental illnesses and there is no one single cause for them.

The symptoms for eating disorders also present differently for each individual, which makes self-diagnosis or diagnosis without a professional’s input extremely difficult and potentially dangerous. It’s also worth noting that diagnoses and symptoms can change over time, so being guided on your recovery journey with the help of a psychologist or GP is advisable.

Below are some tools to help you decide whether you or a loved one need to seek professional help for an eating disorder.

Online self-assesment

The Reach Out and Recover (ROAR) website has a self-assessment tool that can produce a personalised report to take to the GP.

ROAR will help you to see the extent and impact of any issues you are experiencing, and will provide help with the next steps to take towards recovery.  It was developed with extensive input from lived experience of seeking help and clinical expertise.

Complete the checklist

Use the checklist as a starting point to discuss how you’re feeling with your GP.

Reach Out And Recover checklist

For parents and carers concerned about a loved one

Feed Your Instinct (FYI) is an interactive tool designed to help people who are concerned about a loved one’s eating and/or body image problems.

The Feed Your Instinct Eating and Body Image Checklist outlines some behaviour changes you may have noticed in a loved one. Once the checklist is completed, FYI will generate a personalised report with a summary of the information you have provided and suggested strategies for you to implement.

This report may help you to make a decision about how to act on your concerns; however, please note that it is not safe to ‘watch and wait’ with possible eating disorders in young people. In addition, Feed Your Instinct will generate a separate printable summary for you to take to your family doctor/GP to help communicate your concerns.

Go to the Feed Your Instinct website

Complete the Feed Your Instinct checklist and take the report to your GP.

Complete FYI checklist

EDV Hub

The Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV) Hub is a free and confidential service providing information and support to people who are experiencing an eating disorder or are supporting a loved one with an eating disorder. The EDV Hub isn’t a diagnostic service, however we can talk with you about your concerns and provide resources for the next steps of help seeking.

How do I contact the Hub?

Get in touch with our online form or through our free call phone number.

Contact the Hub

Telling someone

Telling someone for the first time can be a daunting experience, but can also bring with it a great sense of relief as you are no longer carrying your concerns alone.

Attempting to tackle an eating disorder alone is very difficult. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, so it’s important that you get support from someone close to you, such as a family member, partner or a friend. If you don’t have someone trusted in your life to talk to, you may decide to confide in a health professional like your family doctor.

Who should I tell?

When you are considering who to talk to, make sure they are someone trustworthy, sensitive and understanding, who you feel comfortable speaking with. Ensure you talk to someone who will support you in finding the best path to getting better.

You may feel more comfortable talking to your teacher, youth worker, sports coach or a supportive family friend. Sometimes it is easier to open up to someone outside of your immediate circle of family and friends because the level of emotional attachment is less significant.

Stages of change

Recovery from an eating disorder happens in stages. It doesn’t always feel like it and the stages will differ for each individual but the basic outline remains the same.

It is beneficial to understand the stages of recovery from an eating disorder, as it helps people to understand where they or where others may be on their road to recovery. These stages look a little different within each person’s recovery process, but the basic outline is as follows: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and (potentially) relapse.

It shows the journey ahead and gives people ‘permission’ to experience relapse, and move back and forth in their recovery process. It also challenges the idea that an eating disorder is permanent part of the person’s life.

What are the stages of change?

Pre-contemplation

In this stage, an individual is unable to acknowledge problematic behaviour and has no intention to change. A person with an eating disorder may deny there is a problem. Friends and family may pick up on some of the warning signs and symptoms (e.g. restrictive eating, overeating, over-exercising, purging or a pre-occupation with weight and appearance). During this stage, the individual may exhibit hostility, anger or frustration if approached by someone who is concerned.

Contemplation

In this stage, an individual is aware of the problem and beginning to think about getting help. They may be considering some of the benefits of changing their behaviours but are hesitant about the idea of doing so. Consequently, there is no concrete commitment to change during this stage (e.g. “Yes my weight is a concern for me, but I’m not willing or able to begin gaining weight within the next month”). The eating disorder often plays an important role as a coping mechanism for the individual when dealing with the stress and challenges in their life.

Preparation

In this stage, an individual has intention to change and is planning how this might happen. They may begin to engage in ‘change talk’, e.g. “My weight concerns me; I’m clear that the benefits of change outweigh the drawbacks, and I’m planning to start within the next month”.

Action

In this stage, there is a change in the behaviour, environment and thoughts of an individual. This stage requires commitment to change and to continue to practice new behaviours (e.g. sticking to meal plan, restricting amount of exercise). The person will be trying new is willing to face fears in order for the change to occur.

Maintenance

In this stage, there is a focus on relapse prevention and building on gains and positives from change (e.g. improved health and long-term happiness). In this stage, more stable behavioural changes are observed. The person is proactively practicing new behaviours and new ways of thinking, as well as consistently using both healthy self-care and coping skills. This requires continued commitment and support (e.g. from family, friends and loved ones, support groups, health professionals such as a GP or psychologist) to sustain the new behaviours and support the person as they navigate their pathway to ongoing recovery.

Relapse

Relapse can also be considered a stage of change, where there is a return to some old patterns of thought or behaviours. Relapse can be an important stage during recovery to see what works well for the individual and what triggers arise. Although relapse can be stressful, it is very common and often helpful to gain insight into patterns of the eating disorder for future

Going through the stages

It can be useful for a person going through the stages of an eating disorder to remind themselves that there is hope and that recovery is possible for everyone. It is important to realise everybody is different and everybody’s experience with an eating disorder is as individual as they are.

Was the page helpful?
Subscribe to our Recovery Newsletter
Get the latest recovery news and tips in your inbox every fortnight.
We respect your privacy.