Diagnosing eating disorders can be challenging, because secrecy, shame, and denial are characteristics of the conditions. As a result, the illness can go undetected for long periods of time. In most cases, binge eating disorder is discovered when a person requests professional help with weight loss, or seeks treatment for an obesity-related health problem, or an associated mental health problem like depression or anxiety.
If binge eating disorder is suspected, the doctor will likely begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose eating disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests, such as blood and urine tests and other laboratory measures, to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms. These tests may also help detect medical consequences of an eating disorder, such as changes in digestive enzyme levels, liver functioning, or electrolytes (the normal salt concentrations in blood).
If no physical illness is found, the person might be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an eating disorder.