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Anorexia - How do doctors diagnose anorexia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There is no simple test for anorexia.

To diagnose this illness, your doctor will ask you questions about your life, eating habits, and problems. Your doctor will also need to check to see how strong and healthy your body is.[33]

Your doctor may want to ask you about your family, or about other important relationships. The doctor might also talk with people close to you.

If you think that someone you know might have anorexia, and want to know more about the signs to look for, see Worried someone close to you might have anorexia?

What your doctor needs to find out

  • Your doctor may check your height and weight, and then compare those measurements to average measurements for healthy people who are about your age.[33]

  • If you are a woman, your doctor will ask you if you have stopped having periods.

  • If you have anorexia, you may be dehydrated, so your doctor will check for this.

  • Your doctor will also look for other physical signs of anorexia, such as fine hair on your face or dry, yellow skin. To read more, see What are the symptoms of anorexia?

  • Your doctor may want to do some blood tests to make sure that you're not anaemic. Your doctor may also use tests to be sure that you don't have any other illnesses, such as diabetes. Those tests will also let the doctor make sure you have the right balance of chemicals in your body. Starving yourself, vomiting, and taking laxatives, diuretics (pills that make you lose water from your body), or diet pills can upset this delicate balance.[33]

  • If you've had anorexia for a long time, or if you are severely underweight and purge a lot, your doctor may want to know how solid and strong your bones are. This is done by measuring your bone density. Anorexia can stop your body from producing the hormoneoestrogen, which helps new bone to grow. Without oestrogen, bones can get weak and break more easily. This is called osteoporosis.

Questions your doctor may ask

Your doctor may ask you the following five questions to see if you have an eating disorder.[34]

  • Do you make yourself sick because you're uncomfortably full?

  • Do you worry that you've lost control over how much you eat?

  • Have you recently lost more than 6 kilograms (about a stone) in three months?

  • Do you believe you're fat when others say you're thin?

  • Would you say that food dominates your life?

Last Updated: September 19, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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