What is OSFED?: the eating disorder you need to know about

Are you worried you might be struggling with an eating disorder?

You could be struggling with OSFED – the most common eating disorder.

In this blog, you will find all you need to know about OSFED.

Including what is OSFED, the signs, and what recovery entails.

What is OSFED?

OSFED stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, previously known as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

It’s often said to be “an eating disorder for people who do not fit the diagnosis for another eating disorder.”

Subtypes of OSFED

OSFED is an umbrella term for numerous disordered eating presentations.

The six subtypes of OSFED are:

1. Atypical anorexia

Atypical anorexia is when you’re diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, but you don’t fit the weight criteria. Even if you have lost a significant amount of weight. But you don’t fit a low BMI.

Why “atypical anorexia” is not a real thing

Atypical anorexia is simply anorexia.

The difference is binary thinking about weight.

You can be malnourished at any body size.

If you have the signs of anorexia but don’t fit the criteria of low body weight – you’re worthy of support.

2. Sub-threshold bulimia nervosa

Sub-threshold bulimia is when you binge and purge, but at a low frequency or it’s not been happening for more than three months.

3. Sub-threshold binge eating disorder

Sub-threshold binge eating disorder is when binge eating isn’t happening more than three times per week, and/or it’s been happening for less than three months.

You don’t quite meet the criteria for the eating disorder binge eating disorder.

4. Purging disorder

Purging disorder is when you are purging to change or sustain your weight.

But you don’t engage in any binge eating.

5. Night eating syndrome

Night eating syndrome is when you consume the majority of your food for the day after your evening meal.

6. Orthorexia

Orthorexia Nervosa is when healthy eating is linked to purity and excellent health.

It’s said to be “when healthy eating goes too far.”

Sub-types: Summary

The sub-types of OSFED differ from other eating disorders due to frequency, intensity, and duration.

Clinical diagnosis is important for research purposes and to understand the prevalence of the conditions.

But we’re not sure how helpful this is for real-life people, to be honest. Our clients say this can make them feel “less than.” It can also appeal to that part of an eating disorder that desires to be different.

Diagnosis can be helpful for some people, including an OSFED diagnosis. We believe that no matter if you’re “officially” diagnosed or not, you still deserve support.

So if you do identify with the signs of OSFED but you don’t have a set diagnosis, that’s ok – you’re still worthy of recovery.

Signs and symptoms of OSFED

Now you know what OSFED is, you’re likely wondering how to identify if you’re living with the eating disorder.

If you have OSFED, you may show:

    • Disordered eating patterns
    • A distorted body image
    • An exaggerated value placed on your size and shape
    • A big fear of putting on weight
    • Self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging, such as taking laxatives
    • Recurring episodes of binge eating, secret eating, emotional eating, or overeating
    • Over-exercising or having guilt linked to how much you move
    • General guilt and obsession over food and your body

What are the causes?

The causes of OSFED are similar to other eating disorders.

They can stem from or be amplified by factors such as:

    • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression
    • A need for a coping mechanism
    • Big T or little T trauma
    • Problems with self-esteem
    • Bullying or harassment
    • Your genetics
    • Your upbringing
    • Social media use

How to recover from OSFED

The eating disorder that most closely resembles your symptoms will be used to guide treatment options.

Your treatment team should ideally consist of at least a medic, a nutritionist or dietitian, and a counsellor. Of course, this depends on your needs.

You should always be at the centre of your care.

There are several types of approaches that you can try out to help recover from OSFED. Evidence suggests the first option is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT includes meal planning, self-monitoring, cognitive restructuring, limiting body checking, and food exposures.

At Ease Nutrition Therapy, our clinicians are all nutritionists or dietitians trained in CBT for eating disorders.

We also have therapists on the team to help you cope with the mental health side of things.

Contact us

Relate to what you’ve read?

We welcome you to get in touch with us.

We are a team of eating disorders and disordered eating experts, ready to support you.

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