Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

By: Taylor Davis

Apple and measuring tapeWhen most people hear the term “eating disorder,” they think of women who either don’t eat at all or regularly binge eat and purge. While clinical anorexia and bulimia are well-known eating disorders that threaten the lives of those who deal with them, there is another type of eating disorder that has gone under the radar. Formerly classified as “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS), “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED) applies to patients who have not received a full-blown diagnosis of anorexia or bulimia, but exhibit similar symptoms.

Defining OSFED

OSFED is typically a variation of anorexia or bulimia, and includes the following five subtypes:

  1. Atypical anorexia — anorexia without low weight
  2. Bulimia nervosa — bulimic episodes that do not happen often or last long
  3. Binge eating disorder — binge episodes that do not happen often or last long
  4. Purging disorder — purging at least once a week, without binging
  5. Night eating syndrome — consuming a large number of calories after dinner or waking in the middle of the night to eat

The symptoms associated with OSFED are less extreme than clinical anorexia or bulimia, but are much more common. In fact, one in 20 adults have demonstrated these symptoms.1 Not only is OSFED more common, but it also has a 5.2 percent mortality rate, making it the most dangerous eating disorder.2

Identifying the Signs

Because the symptoms of OSFED are not as extreme as other eating disorders, they can be easy to overlook in a friend or loved one. It can be hard to tell whether someone is simply extra health conscious or if she has a dangerous obsession with food and fitness. Additionally, a person doesn’t have to be underweight or overweight to have this type of eating disorder.1

There are several questions you can ask when determining if a friend or loved one suffers from OSFED, including:

  • Does her weight fluctuate regularly?
  • Does she regularly make comments about dissatisfaction with her weight or appearance?
  • Does she adhere to a strict exercise schedule or strict eating restrictions with minimal flexibility?
  • Does she always have a new diet she’s trying?

If you can answer yes to more than one of these questions, your friend or loved one may be dealing with OSFED. Orthorexia nervosa is another category of symptoms that can qualify as OSFED. The National Eating Disorder Association defines this as the fixation on eating only the healthiest foods and the right portions. This may seem harmless but can easily turn into anorexia or bulimia or both.3 Healthy eating can become very unhealthy if it is obsessive, regimented and unrelenting. It’s important to be aware of these types of disorders so you can recognize dangerous behaviors in yourself and the people you love.

How to Get Help

OSFED is a very real problem among people who suffer from unhealthy eating habits; in fact approximately 30 percent of those who seek treatment for an eating disorder have OSFED.4

OSFED should be dealt with sooner rather than later in order to prevent it from seriously damaging one’s health. If you believe you or a loved one may be dealing with it, you can start by searching for a treatment program or facility that addresses eating disorders and OSFED in particular. The level of treatment will depend on the extent of a person’s symptoms and can encompass day or evening programs, residential programs or, in extreme cases, hospitalization. When researching programs, it’s important to find one that incorporates both dietary advice and therapy to assess the underlying reasons for the eating disorder.5

Contact Us

The Center for Change is here to help you or your loved one. We offer a program specific to OSFED, and our goal is to address every aspect of recovery. We’ve been established for more than 20 years, and our highly trained staff has extensive experience working with eating disorders and facilitating interventions.

We are dedicated to delivering the highest standards of quality and have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1998. Our focus is on long-term recovery, and we customize our treatment to individual needs so each patient receives care specific to her own situation, while also participating in the overall program.

Call us today at 888-224-8250 to find out how we can help you or your loved one overcome OSFED.

1 The Most Common Eating Disorder You’ve Probably Never Heard Of. July 15, 2014.

2 You Probably Haven’t Heard of America’s Most Deadly Eating Disorder. Accessed October 1, 2017.

3 Why I Didn’t Realize My Eating Habits Were Disordered Until I Learned About Orthorexia. Accessed October 1, 2017.

4 What is OSFED?. National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Accessed October 1, 2017.

5 OSFED: Warning Signs And Treatment Options. May 10, 2015.