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A key to early identification of eating disorders is the development of rapport and establishing a therapeutic and trusting relationship with your patient.

There is significant stigma, guilt, shame, self-blame and embarrassment associated with eating disorders and patients may well be reluctant to disclose their struggles - the reactions and responses of health professionals are extremely important throughout this difficult process. It is very common for people to deny they have an eating disorder.

An empathic and non-judgemental approach that validates the patient’s experience is of the utmost importance and may facilitate disclosure.

Research has shown that people with anorexia nervosa consult their GP significantly more often than other people over the five years prior to diagnosis with psychological, gastrointestinal or gynaecological complaints.

It is important for the doctor-patient relationship to be collaborative, to ensure the patient feels included in the process and that you are working with them to address the eating disorder.

Reproduced with permission from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. gplearning activity – Recognising eating disorders in general practice. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2016. Available at

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