What is OSFED?

OSFED stands for Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder – This is a classification given to a person who has symptoms of disordered eating or an eating disorder but does not present with all the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. For example, OSFED may be used with someone who presents with symptoms of anorexia nervosa but don’t have “low body weight” or someone could have all symptoms of bulimia nervosa but don’t experience the frequency of binging/purging needed to be diagnosed with bulimia.

The following are some examples of presentations that would be given a diagnosis of OSFED:

  • Atypical Anorexia Nervosa – The person would present with the behaviors of anorexia but without the low body weight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa of lower frequency than required to meet a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa.
  • Binge Eating Disorder of lower frequency than required to meet a diagnosis of binge eating disorder
  • Purging Disorder – Unlike bulimia nervosa, the person will purge without bingeing.
  • Night Eating Syndrome – People who struggle with eating a significant amount after dinner, sometimes waking up to eat.

Signs and Symptoms

OSFED is the most common eating disorder. People of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, cultural and economic backgrounds can be affected by these eating disorders. Many experience very disordered eating habits, an intense fear of weight gain, a distorted body image and are overly conscious about their weight and body shape.

Physical signs may include weight change, dehydration, low energy, moodiness, a compromised immune system due to nutrient deficiency and amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period). Psychological signs can include a preoccupation with food and body shape, dissatisfaction with body shape and weight and heightened anxiety levels or stress around mealtimes. Dieting behaviors, eating unusual food combinations, or at unusual times like waking up in the night to eat, avoiding social events, compulsive exercising and obsessive or ritualistic behavior regarding food and eating are also signs of OSFED.

People suffering from OSFED can experience similar complications to those diagnosed with other eating disorders. Kidney failure, osteoporosis, irregular heartbeat, decreased fertility and inflammation of the esophagus are all potential problems for those that suffer from OSFED.

Some people hold the mistaken belief that OSFED is less serious or feel less entitled to receive help than those who meet the full criteria for anorexia or bulimia. OSFED can be every bit as serious as anorexia nervosa in the areas of eating pathology, physical complications, and other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. If you or a loved one meets some but not all of the criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, it is still important to seek help. Similarly, if a medical professional has told you that your problems are not severe enough to warrant help, do not stop there. If you are struggling with eating and body image issues, it is serious enough to get support.

Treatment For Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders

Recovery is possible and seeking support with a treatment team consisting of a medical doctor, licensed therapist, and registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders is recommended. It is never too late to seek treatment. Many who have struggled with eating and body image issues for years and decades have been able to make a full recovery. All eating disorders, at any weight, are serious, potentially deadly and can have long-term complications if they remain untreated. If you are concerned that yourself or someone you know is suffering from OSFED it is vitally important that professional treatment is sought as soon as possible.

Related Articles:

  • Orthorexia Nervosa – This is a condition in which a person obsesses about eating a healthful diet. They may eat a very limited range of foods due to concerns about the healthfulness of various food items, so they may develop nutritional deficiencies. This may also lead to excessive weight loss.
  • Diabulimia – People with diabetes who do not take insulin, or take less insulin than they should in an attempt to control their weight.
  • Muscle Dysmorphia – This new form of eating disorder primarily affects men. Also called bigorexia or reverse anorexia, it is a pathological obsession with extreme dieting and muscle building.
  • PICA – People with pica eat substances with no nutritional value. Examples include clay, coal, hair, paper,  pottery, wood…
  • ARFID – Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is where a person has an issue with certain foods. Reasons can include texture, color, etc. It also includes people that are afraid to eat, or are very slow eaters.
  • Drunkorexia – Occurs when people eat less during the day to compensate for the calories they will consume later by drinking. They do this to avoid weight gain.
  • Sleep Eating Disorder – This is a condition in which people eat when they are asleep. It’s similar to sleepwalking. In some instances, people that eat while asleep eat strange foods, like raw meat, or non-food items like soap or dirt. It’s technically considered a sleep disorder, not an eating disorder, but people with other eating disorders may also suffer from sleep eating disorder.
  • Chewing and Spitting Food – Causes of this disordered eating behavior, side effects, treatment options, helping a loved one…
  • Emetophobia – This phobia is an intense fear of vomiting. Some emetophobics restrict their food intake and develop anorexia nervosa.

 

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Further Reading:

Navigating Eating Disorder Treatment
Approaching Someone with an Eating Disorder
Food Allergies and Eating Disorders
Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Relationship with Food a Problem? (The Almost Effect) by Ph.D. Jennifer J Thomas and Jenni Schaefer

Podcasts:

Dietitian’s Unplugged
Love, Food
Food Psych

Resources:

National Eating Disorders Collaboration
National Eating Disorders Association

Updated by Molly Bahr – 12/2019
Written by Tabitha Farrar