If you believe that thoughts about food, weight, and appearance may be taking up too much of your time, then you may be experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to seek help as quickly as possible, as treatment is most effective when sought early. While the following questionnaire is not meant to act as a substitute for a professional diagnosis, it can be extremely helpful in identifying people who are very likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
The SCOFF questionnaire is a simple, five question, screening measure for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Developed in the United Kingdom, the acronym for SCOFF does not translate fully for other countries but the questions are easily adapted to any culture.
Answering "yes" to two or more of the following questions indicates a possible case of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat?
Have you recently lost more than One stone [approximately fifteen pounds] in a 3 month period?
Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?
Would you say that Food dominates your life?
What do I do next? If you did answer "yes" to two or more of the questions above, it is important to be assessed by an eating disorder professional, such as a therapist, dietician, or physician. A professional can determine if you do, indeed, suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Once you have been assessed by someone and a diagnosis has been determined, a professional can also help you begin treatment by determining what level of care would be appropriate for you, as well as helping you to build a treatment team.
Even if you didn't answer "yes" to two or more of the questions, but you still believe that you may have a problem, it is recommended that you seek assessment as well. The SCOFF questionnaire may not pick up all eating disorders. Many professionals also recognize that people may be struggling with body-image concerns or an obsession with healthy eating to an extent that would warrant clinical treatment.
How do I find help? Sometimes, it is difficult to get help, and it may be useful to enlist a support person to help you find the right professionals, make phone calls, and perhaps even accompany you to appointments. A support person can be anyone whom you trust to share what you are struggling with. It may be a family member, close friend, teacher or a member of the clergy. Seeking treatment takes a good deal of courage, but it is important to note that recognizing that you have a problem and knowing that you need help are important components of treatment and recovery.
It can seem challenging to find professionals who specialize in treating eating disorders when you are new to the process. However, you may already know other professionals who can refer you. This may include your family physician, obstetrician/gynecologist, a school counselor, teacher, clergy member, or nurse. You may also have friends or family members who could recommend a therapist or psychiatrist to you. If your initial contact is with a therapist who doesn't specialize in eating disorders, they can likely refer you to a more appropriate clinician.
Morgan, J.F., Reid, F., Lacey, J.H. The SCOFF questionnaire: Assessment of a new screening tool for eating disorders. BMJ. 319 1467-1468.