Assessment of Eating Disorders

By Weiss, Fran | American Journal of Psychotherapy, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Assessment of Eating Disorders


Weiss, Fran, American Journal of Psychotherapy


JAMES E. MITCHELL AND CAROL B. PETERSON (EDS.): Assessment of Eating Disorders. The Guilford Press, NY, 2005, 242 pp., $35.00, ISBN: 1593851960

Assessment of Eating Disorders covers a wide terrain, and does it flawlessly. The book's twelve chapters address the most difficult and controversial issues in the eating disorders field today in a salient, cogent, and understandable manner. The volume opens with Timothy Walsh's and Dana A. Satir's review of the diagnostic issues of the eating disorders, followed by Chapter 2, which further clarifies the classification of eating disorders. Dr. Walsh et al thoughtfully expand on the general psychiatric interview of the DSM-IV, pointing out additional assessment information that clinicians ought to obtain from patients with eating disorders. Their information is clear and will be especially useful to the clinician who has little or no experience with eating disorders. The authors are very specific with their differential diagnosis between anorexia (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). They point out that differential diagnosis for binge eating disorder (BED) is complicated by its uncertain status in the DSM-IV, where it is still not an official diagnostic category (it is relegated to the appendix), raising the question as to where the boundary is between a non-purging BN and BED. The discussion helps to clear up some of the confusion as to whether obesity is a psychiatric illness. The other non-official diagnostic category in the obesity repertoire is night eating syndrome (NES). To date, only anorexia and bulimia nervosa are official eating disorders in the DSM-IV statistical manual, with a mention of childhood eating disorders.

Dr. Peterson's "Conducting the Diagnostic Interview", Chapter 3, is most instructive and to the point, from establishing rapport to getting important information whkh may be hidden or forgotten by the patient. The tables and interview samples are clarifying.

James E. Mitchell, in Chapter 4, reviews the standardized database, clarifying its use for non-testers, and provides a convenient Eating Disorder Questionnaire in full form. Chapters 5 and 6 address themselves to structured instruments and measures. Both chapters cover difficult but essential material for the researcher, and share terminology that would be worthwhile for the practicing clinician to note. Chapters 7 and 8 cover medical and nutritional assessments, informing the non-medical practitioner of the most salient points to be alert to, including signs of morbidity, in this most difficult patient population. In "The Family Assessment", Chapter 9, Daniel Ie Grange provides an interesting review of the different schools of thought on working with the families of those with eating disorders, from Bruch and Touraine to Palazzoli, Minuchin and Vandereycken. …

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