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What is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified)?

written by: Rafael • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 7/30/2009

Learn about Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), a group of eating disorders that do not fall under the recognizable disorders type (bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa).

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    There are life threatening disorders perfectly described like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. In anorexia, there is low body weight, a body image distortion and obsessive fear of gaining weight. Bulimia is a little different. In Bulimia, people eat a lot of food in a short period of time, that is, they engage in binge eating. A sensation of guilt and fear comes after binge eating so the person may try to eliminate all the food eaten by vomiting or taking laxatives.

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    EDNOS: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

    Many times people struggle with eating thoughts, feelings, behaviors, but do not follow the characteristic definitions of either bulimia or anorexia. In cases in which people do not have all the symptoms of anorexia or bulimia it is said that they have an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS). Technically speaking, EDNOS is defined as a "category of disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder". So it is like a “catch all definition" for those undefined eating disorders.

    The problem with EDNOS is that a person may have an eating disorder and he/she (or his/her family) does not recognize it, delaying seeking proper medical and counseling advice. In addition, not being able to fit into specific types of eating disorder, additional problems can surface. Medical insurance will not cover their treatment.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness have some examples of EDNOS. For example, a person may engage in binge eating without looking for compensatory measures after binging. Or another one, may have many characteristics of anorexia but still not be in the target weight for diagnosing anorexia.

    There are some initial attempts to classify these EDNOS. However, keep in mid that, there are variations of them. Names such as Pica, Compulsive Binge Eating, Prade-Willis syndrome, Orthorexia, Night Eating Syndrome, and Bigorexia are emerging into this poorly understood field of eating disorders.

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    What to do if you suspect EDNOS?

    If you ever suspect that you or a family member may have EDNOS, seek immediate counseling. EDNOS is very difficult to treat because there is no formal definition of the eating disorder. However, proper counseling is essential to be started as soon as possible to avoid complications. Constant thoughts and worries about food and weight is a precautionary sign about EDNOS. Also, behaviors of food restriction or binge eating may flag an eating disorder.