What Is Eating Disorder NOS?
Eating Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified), or EDNOS, is diagnosed when an individual demonstrates feelings or behaviors in conjunction with feeding or eating problems but does not demonstrate the full symptoms of anorexia nervosa or bulimia. The individual may demonstrate some aspects of one or the other, but EDNOS cannot be categorized as one of the two main eating disorders due to extenuating factors or additional symptoms.
Definition of Eating Disorder NOS:
An individual with Eating Disorder NOS may show symptoms of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa to lesser degrees or to different extents, or the individual may have feeding issues or habits that are not classifiable under the two main eating disorders.
The following are examples of how one may have Eating Disorder NOS and not have anorexia or bulimia:
- Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: a female may demonstrate all of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa but is still menstruating and her weight is still within the normal range despite significant and rapid weight loss.
- Subthreshold Bulimia Nervosa: an individual may demonstrate all of the symptoms of bulimia nervosa, but binging and subsequent purging through various methods occur at a lower frequency (less than twice a week or for less than 3 months at a time).
- Subthreshold Binge Eating Disorder: an individual may demonstrate all of the symptoms of binge eating disorder, but the binging occurs at a lower frequency (less than once a week and for less than 3 months at a time).
- Purging Disorder: an individual may employ purging behavior in an effort to control weight without accompanying binge eating. This could occur after ingesting very small amounts of food, such as vomiting or taking laxatives after eating a candy bar.
- Night Eating Disorder: the individual demonstrates atypical eating behaviors after the evening meal, such as awakening from sleep to eat or excessive ingestion of food prior to sleep.
- Other Feeding or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: the individual demonstrates symptoms of an eating disorder that is not better classified under the preceding conditions, for example an individual who excessively chews and spits out food without swallowing.
Causes of Eating Disorder NOS:
Eating disorders usually develop in adolescents and young adults but can occur in individuals of any age. EDNOS occurs more commonly in females but is not limited to a specific gender; binge eating is equally common in both males and females.
It is difficult to gauge the causes of the disorder, but they are typically associated with increased concerns about body image and weight, anxiety, and depression. Cultural, social, and familial pressures can aggravate these tendencies. Some studies have also shown genetic connections to eating disorders and hormonal abnormalities may influence susceptibility as well.
Symptoms of Eating Disorder NOS:
Excessive concern about food, eating, and weight can be signs of EDNOS, as well as behaviors meant to compensate for consumption of food (like purging and exercise). Typically these behaviors are cyclical in nature (i.e., the individual feels guilty about a purging cycle and goes through a subsequent restriction cycle to compensate).
The following can be symptoms of EDNOS:
- Avoidance of eating or meals
- Ingestion of appetite-altering drugs or medications
- Long periods in the bathroom after meals
- Eating in secret or concealment of food eaten
- Rituals or rules with food (i.e., specific portioning of food, cutting food into small pieces, hoarding of food or food-related items)
- Frequent or excessive exercise
- Noticeable or significant fluctuations in weight
- Concealment behaviors related to food, eating, or restriction measures in relation to food
Diagnosis of Eating Disorder NOS:
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of mental disorders, with 10%-20% of those affected dying from related complications. If you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of an eating disorder, please consult a doctor or mental health professional immediately.
Treatment of Eating Disorder NOS:
Specific treatment plans for EDNOS are highly individualized and comprehensive.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been helpful for many people and can take place either in individual therapy or in a group therapy setting. This therapy stresses self-monitoring of feeding and/or purging cycles and behaviors; its goal is to help alter the distorted body image and thought processes that fuel eating disorder behaviors.
Nutritional counseling and anti-depressant medications are often used as well. Social and familial support groups are vital in aiding the individual’s long-term recovery.
Eating Disorder Hotlines:
The ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) Helpline - 630-577-1330
NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) Helpline - 800-931-2237
Additional Resources for Eating Disorders NOS:
Academy for Eating Disorders: dedicated to research, treatment, and prevention of eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorders Associations offers support to both sufferers and family members alike. They also have an event and programs calendar with events planned around the USA.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: the world’s largest association of food and nutrition professionals and experts. Forums, blogs, and social communities available.