Based on the fact that I couldn’t find any information about the assessment for eating disorders, I decided that I would share my experiences with you so that anyone who has to go through it will have a better idea of what to expect.
My assessment began with an interview with my psychologist which took approximately an hour. The beginning of the interview was just really general questions to screen out other illnesses (ie. Have you ever seen or heard things that others have been unable to hear or see?, have you ever thought about or attempted suicide? Have you ever been irritable for extended periods of days at a time during which time you lashed out at someone outside of your family?). After this first interview section was completed, my psychologist based the rest of my interview on the answers that I provided in this section of the interview. For example, she skipped the section about suicide because I am not suicidal.
The first section of the interview took about fifteen minutes. After that the interview focused specifically on my eating behaviors. Here are some of the questions I was asked:
• Have you ever gone on a binge in which you consumed a large amount in a short amount of time?
o What foods did you eat? How much? Why did you stop?
o Was anyone else there during the binge?
o How long did the binge last?
o Did you take compensatory measures afterwards to make up for the binge (ie. Vomiting, exercise, restricting for days, etc).
• Have you ever gone for periods of more than 8 hours without eating?
• What did you eat yesterday?
• What did you eat two days ago?
• What calorie limit do you allow yourself?
• How often do you binge?
• How often do you take compensatory measures to lose weight? What do you do (ie. Vomit, exercise, laxatives, etc.)?
• Have you ever taken medication to control your weight?
This portion of the interview took longer because it was not just yes/no questions. I was asked to elaborate on my answers and provide as much detail as I could.
After the eating disorder section of the interview, I was assessed for trauma. This is not a routine part of an eating disorder assessment; it is specific to my experiences. These questions include:
• Have you ever been through an experience in which you thought death or bodily harm was threatened? How did you react?
• Have you ever had repetitive dreams, thoughts, or flashbacks as a result of a specific event in your life?
• Do you ever experience feelings of anxiety for no apparent reason?
• Do you ever experience muscle tension, hot/cold flashes, difficulty breathing, a fast heart rate, sweating, shaking, or dizziness as a result of anxiety?
o How long does this last?
o How often does it occur?
• Have you ever experienced a panic attack?
• When was your first panic attack?
• Do you consider yourself a worrier?
• When was your last panic attack?
• How often do the panic attacks occur?
This portion of my interview took approximately fifteen minutes. After this portion of my interview I was taken to another small room with a chair and a desk where I was left alone to complete two self-report questionnaires.
The first questionnaire was 365 questions and it took me about an hour to finish. The questions were general and seemed to cover all mental illness from self-harm to eating disorders to schizophrenia. I have some post-secondary education experience in psychology so I recognized certain questions as being targeted at specific illnesses. A lot of the questions on this questionnaire were repetitive and were focused on suicidal thoughts, anxiety, anger, stress, and sociability.
The second questionnaire was more focused on traumatic experiences but it was also more relevant to eating disorders. This one was about 110 questions. Some examples of the questions on this self-report test include:
• On a scale of 0-3 how often have you felt lonely in the last 3 months
• When you are upset, do you ever harm yourself in order to express your anger (ie. Hitting, scratching, burning, cutting, hair pulling, etc.)
• Do you like to drive fast?
• Do you spend money impulsively?
• Do you take part in activities that others would consider reckless simply for the thrill of it?
These questions were all answered on a scale of 0-3 (0= never 3=often).
The questions were still relatively general in the sense that it was not specific to questions about eating behaviors. The questions specific to eating disorders appeared more in the interview portion of the assessment. The self-report questionnaires felt more like a general assessment of my over-all mental health rather than a specific assessment for a specific illness, in this case, an eating disorder.
Overall, the assessment was not as bad as I was expecting. I was really uncomfortable at first but my doctor assured me that if at any time I became too uncomfortable to continue that I was free to leave. This really helped me calm down because I didn’t feel trapped. The self-report questionnaire was not stressful at all (to be honest I laughed at some of the questions (ie. Most people enjoy going to the dentist). The interview portion of the assessment was a bit more emotionally and mentally taxing because it was more detailed and it was really hard for me to talk about certain things in detail because of the shame that I feel about those parts of myself. All in all though it was not a terrible experience and if it helps me feel better then I suppose it will be worth it in the long run.
So this was my experience of an assessment for an eating disorder. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to give you more information and I hope that the information I have already provided will help someone who is going through a similar experience. It is also important to note that I live in Ontario, Canada and the assessment may not be the same in other provinces or countries. But I hope this will at least give you an idea of what to expect. Stay strong.