EDNOS isn't a result of installing a rather slapdash spell-checker, it stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Specific eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia, are diagnosed based on certain criteria.

If you have some, but not all, of the symptoms of one condition (i.e. not enough to be diagnosed with one particular eating disorder), you may have been diagnosed with an 'atypical eating disorder' or EDNOS.

Since 2013, EDNOS has been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Nowadays, you are more likely to be diagnosed with a specific eating disorder. It is sometimes referred to as 'atypical eating disorder'.

Technical details aside, if you've been diagnosed in the past with EDNOS, it can include having an eating 'problem', but not an eating 'disorder'. You may, for example, eat and purge on food, but not enough to be diagnosed with bulimia or you may eat objects like tissue paper to feel like you're eating, without the calorie implications of 'real' food.

Don't be fooled into believing that being diagnosed with EDNOS means it is any less of a problem for you or it isn't being taken seriously. It is. Around 50% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder, were given the diagnosis of EDNOS, although studies suggest many of these actually had binge-eating disorder. You should not underestimate the impact any eating disorder can have on your life.

 

THE SYMPTOMS

EDNOS can be difficult to diagnose. The secretive nature can mask the condition. Those with EDNOS may appear to be a normal weight, relative to their age and height, but this is what makes the difference between this and other conditions. In ladies they may, for example, meet the criteria for anorexia, but have regular menses (or 'periods' to us blokes - I had to Google that!).

People with EDNOS may appear outwardly healthy, but the psychological impact can be much harder to see. Their relationship with food will be strained. They may chew food before spitting it out or binge on food (but do it less than those who have binge eating disorder). They may use food as a coping mechanism. Whatever the cause their symptoms will include:

  • Feeling overweight even though they are within normal range.
  • Hating themselves or their body.
  • Low confidence or low self-esteem.
  • Distorted perception of themselves.

Those living with EDNOS can go on to develop psychical ailments such as kidney problems, gum disease, ulcers and osteoporosis.

WHAT CAUSES EDNOS?

There is no one cause for any eating disorder and that is the same for EDNOS. Whatever the underlying factors may be, they will combine to become a complex and confusing illness. Confusing even for the person dealing with it.

The start of eating disorders can often be traced back to traumatic experiences in your life. Whether that is in the form of abuse, bereavement, family conflicts (e.g. divorce), stressful environments at work, college or university or even bullying. If they also take place at the same time as you're going through life-changing events, like puberty, moving home or the realisation about your sexuality, they can all impact on your eating habits.

Eating disorders can also come about as a coping mechanism for other forms of mental illness. You may start eating (or stop eating) to affect your mood or as a result of low self-esteem or feelings that you're worthless or powerless in your life. Both things may feel true, but in reality, they won't be.

WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?

As food is so vital to us, getting help and treatment is crucial. The earlier, the better. Start by talking to someone about it. This can be members of your family or friends, Doctors or other health professionals.

There are a number of therapies and coping strategies that have been shown to work to address the underlying causes, including CBT, IPT or a modified version of DBT.


If you live with (and have previously been diagnosed with) EDNOS, there may be some organisations on our Where To Turn pages that can help you. If not, and you know of one, please let us know and we'll look into it.

Also, if you'd like to share your experiences of living with the condition with our community, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.