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Using the Eating Attitudes Test to Detect Anorexia

By Stano Novak (own photo, assembled myself) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are two primary types of eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia and both have horrible consequences. It’s common knowledge that many young women experience the significant health issues that an eating disorder can cause. It is very important to equip physicians with practical methods for screening to see if people suffering from these disorders and it requires case identification, screening methods, early intervention and treatment.

What is the Eating Attitudes Test or EAT-26?

The Eating Attitudes Test is a widely utilized self-reported measure of symptoms and concerns that are prevalent with eating disorders. The test was first published in an original 40-item version in 1979 and it was developed to examine the factors that lead to the development of an eating disorder.

In 1982, the test was revised and streamlined down to 26-items and since then it has been translated into many languages and used in hundreds of published medical journals. The test can be used in a clinical as well as a non-clinical setting, and it may be administered by coaches, eating disorder professionals, medical practitioners, school counselors and anybody else who may be interested in determining if they need to seek the help an eating disorder specialist.

This test is not a means of diagnosis, nor is it a sole determinant to verify if somebody has an eating disorder or not. The EAT-26 has been a very useful means of assessing an “eating disorder risk” in high school, college and other at-risk individuals, such as dancers and athletes. Screening for an eating disorder is based upon the assumption that early identification might lead to earlier treatment, which means decreasing the risks of serious physical and psychological consequences or even death.

An EAT-26 test might be used as the preliminary step in a two part screening process. According to methodology, people who score a 20 or higher on the test should be interviewed by an eating disorder specialist, in order to determine if they could meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia. The test is rated on a six-point scale and it goes according to how much a person engages in a particular behavior. The questions are answered in the following format: always, usually, often, rarely, sometimes or never.

A person can take the test online under their own discretion or it could be conducted in a private or medical setting. Completing the test will yield a “referral index”, which is based on these three criteria:

1.) The overall score of the EAT-test is based on a person’s answers to 26 questions.
2.) The responses a person gives to the behavioral questions related to eating behaviors and weight loss.
3.) The person’s body mass index or BMI is calculated from their weight and height.

Normally, if a person scores positively or meets the threshold on one or more of the above listed criteria, it can be beneficial to seek assistance from an eating disorder specialist.

Conclusion

Permission to use the EAT-26 test can be received from David Garner through the website or the River Centre Clinic. Scoring instructions may be downloaded through the website and taking the test is free of charge.