Eating Disorders: Identification and Management in General Medical and Psychiatric Settings.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association


california; plcmmc; san pedro


OBJECTIVE: Eating disorders (EDs) are serious, complex illnesses with both behavioral and physical health features. EDs have high rates of medical and psychiatric morbidity, and a 6% mortality rate, the highest of any mental illness. Early detection of EDs offers the best opportunity for recovery; yet, estimates are that as few as one in 10 individuals with an ED receive treatment. The purpose of this article is to provide an ED identification and management overview for inpatient nurse clinicians in general psychiatric and medical settings, helping to facilitate timely recognition and care.

METHOD: An overview of ED diagnostic criteria and two evidence-based ED tools are introduced for consideration.

RESULTS: Opportunities to identify and help manage an ED are numerous. Most individuals with an ED make several health care visits in either medical or psychiatric settings without ever being screened for an ED. General ED screening and assessment tool familiarization can facilitate a treatment trajectory for these patients, improve overall quality of life, and may potentially result in a life-saving intervention for this often-deadly cluster of medical and psychiatric disorders.

CONCLUSION: Screening and assessment in general clinical settings, identifying patients with undiagnosed EDs, beginning basic treatment plans, and referrals for appropriate follow-up care, have the potential to reduce ED recidivism and related health care costs. Simultaneously, and most important, long-term outcomes for patients with EDs may improve.

Clinical Institute

Digestive Health

Clinical Institute

Mental Health


Behavioral Health