Fun with the Medical Model – in which I take an Eating Disorder Test

Just out of interest, I decided to take the Net Doctor test to find out whether it thinks I have an eating disorder

I started by ticking the boxes that best represent where I feel myself to be at the moment.  Here is my result:

21-30

Your eating habits are pretty normal. Most of the time you feel completely in control of your eating. Sometimes you have some anxiety about your eating habits and feel rather less in control than you would like to. This is perfectly normal. For one thing you are surrounded by messages telling you how you are supposed to look (slim and fit) and what food you are supposed to eat to achieve your ideal looks and ideal standards of health. You hear that there are foods which are supposed to be ‘bad’ and foods which are supposed to be ‘good’. No-one is in agreement about what these foods are.

I wasn’t expecting to get a very high score because this test is obviously intended for people who are in the early stages of realising that they have a problem, while I am in recovery and am now able to stop myself from doing most of the behaviours that are associated with eating disorders according to this test,  e.g., I had to tick ‘never’ to weighing myself  (although I ‘d like to), and ‘never’ to counting calories.

However, I was quite surprised because I got this ‘pretty normal’ result despite the fact that I told the test the following things:

I OFTEN find myself preoccupied with food

I OCCASIONALLY feel satisfied with my eating patterns

I can NEVER eat high-calorie food without feeling guilty

I can NEVER feel relaxed if I overeat

I NEVER feel I am in control of my weight

I NEVER feel relaxed about my body weight

I OFTEN feel ashamed of the amount of food I can eat

Does that sound normal to you? I can only assume this test gives more weight (ha ha!)  to behaviours than it does to feelings, since most of my problems these days are in feelings and thoughts, rather than in behaviours.  In other words, I still feel a lot of emotional and psychological distress about eating and my body, but I’ve reached the stage of being able to stop myself from acting on those feelings and thoughts, most of the time anyway.

But aside from the fact that I personally found it rather gaslighting, what really bothered me about this result is the high level of misery and suffering around eating and food that it associates with being ‘pretty normal’.  There may actually be a painful truth here in the sense that high levels of bodily unhappiness and eating distress have become quite normal in our culture for various reasons.

I then went back in and did my best to take the test as if I was 17 again, during the worst phase of my anorexia, and ticked the boxes that I think I would have ticked at my worst – except I wouldn’t because I would have lied about it.

This was the result:

You have scored 54

 45-55

You have a sub-clinical eating disorder, which means that you have anorexic feelings and behaviours. Generally, you feel out of control around food and may, at times, feel taken over by someone else who does the eating for you. You know that your eating behaviour is not altogether normal, but it is not quite serious enough to warrant medical attention. Yet you devote a lot of energy into trying to control your eating, thinking and worrying about food and weight and being otherwise unhappy with yourself. Be wary of junk food and food which is packaged to look like a healthy product but may be full of fat and sugar. Also be wary of health food fads: meat is good for you one day, the next scientists are telling you that it is healthier to be a vegetarian. No wonder you are a little confused.

Some people, at the higher end of the range, are at risk of feeling ‘good’ if they eat good food and feeling ‘bad’ if they eat food commonly ‘believed’ to be bad. Luckily, however, most of you are immune from falling into this thinking trap and your eating habits are pretty flexible, you have the ability to make choices which feel right for you most of the time and you don’t waste too much time worrying about what you eat.

I was still surprised because I had amenorrhœa for 2 years between the ages of 16 and 17,  and the result made me wonder what on earth you’d have to tick to get this test to say you had a ‘clinical eating disorder’.

I took the test once more, this time trying to fill it it as I might when I was at the worst of my bulimia – I scored 50, so sub-clinical ED again and, according to this test, not as ill as I was when I had anorexia, even though I felt far worse with bulemia.  It also told me that I was probably anorexic  when I’d ticked ‘always’ to vomiting to control my weight.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is beyond saying I found this experience both  interesting and disturbing, and that I think Net Doctor needs a more sensitive eating disorder test.

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One thought on “Fun with the Medical Model – in which I take an Eating Disorder Test

  1. This thing said I’m subclinical…makes me wonder why I’ve seen a different doctor each day for the past week.

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