Mental Health Awareness: Screening for Eating Disorders

May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma that so many experience.  Millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness every year. This month, McCallum Place joins the national movement to raise awareness of the impact it can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, families, and communities.

Mental health providers get hours of suicide prevention training, with many clinical licensure boards mandating suicide prevention specific training hours for ongoing certification.  While thankfully screening for suicide risks is now common practice, and therefore saving lives, screening for eating disorders is still oftentimes overlooked.

Family members and clinicians alike reach out to McCallum Place requesting support for folks who “might” have an eating disorder, requesting an assessment to determine if there client or loved one is struggling with their relationship with food; enough for their behaviors to meet criteria for a formal eating disorder diagnosis.

When connecting with our intake team, a thorough bio-psycho-social assessment is completed, paying close attention to thoughts, behaviors, and feelings around food and exercise.  Labs are requested, medical records are obtained, and results are reviewed by multidisciplinary team members to assess behaviors, thoughts, vitals, and individual treatment needs.

It can be difficult for providers to determine if a client is struggling to navigate diet culture, engaging in disordered eating, or struggling with a mentally and physically dangerous eating disorder diagnosis.  We’d like to share a few screening questions that you can use to help navigate the conversation with a client you suspect might be susceptible to disordered eating or an eating disorder.  We hope you find these questions helpful in determining your client’s treatment needs and possible diagnosis (check out our Eating Disorder Diagnostic card here:  /admissions/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/)

Please note the below questions should not be misinterpreted as a diagnostic tool.  Conversations around each of these questions might be a helpful exercise to help identify areas of concern, and in turn help determine treatment needs and therapeutic approaches.

  1. Do you ever find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about food?
  2. Do you ever find that much of your day is spent thinking about or obsessing over your weight and/or body shape?
  3. Do you feel afraid of gaining weight?
  4. Have you lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time?
  5. Do you believe that you may have lost control over how much and how often you eat?
  6. Do you ever restrict your food intake or overeat to the point of sickness?
  7. Have you ever made yourself vomit or consumed laxatives, diuretics, or other substances as a means of eliminating food from your body?
  8. Do you ever consume a large amount of food in one sitting and then feel guilty about it?
  9. Do you isolate yourself from others when eating?
  10. Do you believe that you may have lost control over how long or how often you exercise?
  11. Do you feel anxious if you are unable to exercise?
  12. Have you lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time?
  13. Do you continue to believe that you are fat, even when others tell you that you are thin?
  14. Do you have rituals regarding the food you eat? For example, do you feel the need to measure the amount of food you are consuming, cut your food into little pieces, count the numbers of bites you take, etc.?
  15. Do you feel fatigued most of the time, regardless of how much sleep you get?

These questions can also be found by visiting and clinking “FREE ASSESSMENT.” /admissions/assessment/eating-disorder/

If you utilize these screening questions and are concerned that a client you are working with may need a higher level of care to address their eating disorder, please contact a member of our outreach team.  Kelly Kelley and Molly Reid are available to consult on cases, provide support and resources, and are happy assist you with information about our programs or provide referral support.  They are passionate about providing assistance to providers and connecting adolescents and adults to the right fit for their treatment needs.

To learn more about McCallum Programs, Contact:
Molly Reid and Kelly Kelley
McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers