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Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED)

Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED), also known as ‘eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS)’ or ‘atypical eating disorders’, have features that closely resemble anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder (BED) but do not meet the exact requirements that are needed in order to receive a formal diagnosis. It is estimated that 50% of people with an eating disorder fall into this group. Examples of when OSFED might be present include:

  • The person’s weight may be slightly above the weight threshold for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating and purging may occur infrequently
  • Having an obsession with weight and body shape, with no other symptoms
  • Being extremely underweight as a woman, but menstruation still takes place

Many people who have OSFED have experienced anorexia, bulimia or BED in the past or may subsequently go on to be diagnosed with one of these conditions in the future. Atypical eating disorders are commonly diagnosed in childhood, which is partly due to the fact that it is more difficult to strictly apply existing diagnostic criteria for anorexia, bulimia and BED within children.

At Priory, we recognise that, although OSFED sufferers do not have an official eating disorder diagnosis, their difficulties are no less genuine and can still result in a whole host of psychological and physical problems. As such, our highly skilled psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other specialists are dedicated to offering expert, tailored OSFED treatment packages at our hospitals and wellbeing centres, in order to address individual issues and underlying problems.

Treatment for OSFED at Priory

Treatment for atypical eating disorders at Priory follows the same basic principles that we use when treating anorexia, bulimia and BED. This involves the same interventions that are successful in treating other eating disorders, namely dietetic advice, supported meals, food exposure interventions, and body image workshops, combined with a range of psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), the Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA) and other psychological therapies.

Treatment for other atypical problems such as overeating or vomiting due to conditions such as depression, anxiety, or stress, involves counselling and psychotherapeutic approaches that have been specifically designed to address your underlying mental health challenges. Medications such as antidepressants and other prescribed drugs can also be helpful in the treatment of atypical eating disorders, in addition to psychological therapies.

The type and length of the OSFED treatment that you receive at Priory, is dependent upon the nature and severity of your symptoms, as well as your personal needs, requirements and circumstances. We are able to deliver high quality eating disorder treatment in an outpatient, day care or inpatient (residential) capacity, which will be recommended based upon the intensity of the support that you require. You can read more about these different treatment options on our approach to eating disorder treatment page.

All of our patients can be assured that our specialist treatment environments are supportive, compassionate and highly therapeutic, providing you with the ideal place in which to receive world leading treatment, and take steps towards a full and sustainable recovery. Furthermore, Priory’s expansive national network of hospitals and wellbeing centres, mean that you can access the exceptional support that you need in a location that is convenient for you, and in a way that can be flexible around your unique requirements and commitments.

Our dedicated teams are here to help you every step of the way towards resolving your unhealthy relationship with food, and regaining control of your life.

Highly skilled OSFED treatment specialists

Our eating disorder specialists at Priory have a wealth of clinical knowledge and experience in this area, and are able to deliver a personalised blend of therapeutic techniques to treat your eating disorder, and help you to identify the causes and underlying triggers for your dysfunctional eating habits. We also ensure that you are placed at the centre of your OSFED treatment and recovery journey and are involved in all decisions that are made about your care. This means that you will benefit from a truly bespoke treatment package and achieve the best possible outcomes for you as an individual.

It is important to understand that without timely, expert treatment, your eating disorder has the potential to become progressively worse over time, having a detrimental impact on all areas of your life, as well as your health and wellbeing. In addition, a lack of support may result in your OSFED developing into another form of serious eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia and BED. At Priory, we understand that seeking help for your eating disorder can be a daunting prospect, but it is the most crucial step that you can take. Eating disorders are treatable, and over the years, we have helped thousands of people to address their challenges, alleviate their debilitating symptoms and take steps towards the healthy and fulfilling lives that they deserve.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of OSFED?

Due to the inexact symptoms of OSFED, it is useful to be mindful of the symptoms that are associated with anorexia, bulimia and BED. For more information on these symptoms, you can click on the links below:

One of the most effective ways to identify if you are struggling with this disorder is by keeping meal diaries. Once you have this, you can start to look for eating habits that suggest that an eating disorder may be present. Ask yourself:

  • Do you go for long periods of time being severely underweight and then severely overweight?
  • Have your eating habits undergone changes that are uncharacteristic for you?
  • Perhaps you are no longer engaging in social activities like you used to?
  • Are you avoiding family and friends?

If any of these characteristics sound familiar, it may be that you are struggling with an atypical eating disorder that requires professional treatment.

Young people and OSFED

At Priory, our experts are not only able to treat adults with OSFED, but are also able to provide personalised atypical eating disorder treatment for patients who are under the age of 18 years. Generally, we recommend outpatient treatment for young people. However, if the symptoms of the eating disorder are severe and/or life threatening, inpatient treatment may be necessary. Our inpatient units provide a comprehensive range of educational services and accredited on-site assessment facilities to ensure that your child receives continuous educational provision, suitable to their needs and abilities.

More information on the eating disorder support that we offer for young people can be found on our young people’s services page.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Pippa Hugo (MBChB, MRCPsych) in July 2020, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in July 2022. To view all Priory OSFED specialists, please click here. 

What is atypical anorexia?
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What is atypical bulimia?
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What is atypical BED?
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