OSFED Symptoms
Not every eating disorder fits neatly into a diagnostic box. Some eating disorders manifest as a cluster of symptoms that—while harmful, risky, and disruptive to normal life—don’t meet the criteria for one of the four main eating disorder diagnoses (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and ARFID). When this happens, it’s known as OSFED, or other specified feeding and eating disorder, an eating disorder diagnosis that’s more general but no less serious than other eating disorders. Since OSFED isn’t as narrowly defined as, say, anorexia, it can be extra tricky to discern its signs and symptoms. However, by learning about the different ways OSFED might show up, you’ll be better able to notice red flags in yourself or a loved one.  Read on to learn more about OSFED and its symptoms.
What is OSFED?
OSFED is a general term for eating disorder behaviors that cause distress and impair mental and physical health but don’t fit the diagnostic criteria for other eating disorder diagnoses. Prior to the 2013 publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this group of conditions was known as EDNOS, or eating disorder not otherwise specified. OSFED is the new official diagnostic term, and the two acronyms mean basically the same thing. 
of the population has OSFED
In addition to being a general diagnosis to describe disordered behaviors that don’t meet criteria for other eating disorders, OSFED also encompasses a few specific subdiagnoses, including:
  • Atypical anorexia: An eating disorder in which someone meets all the diagnostic criteria for anorexia except for low weight.
  • Limited or infrequent binge eating disorder: An eating disorder in which someone experiences recurrent binges, but not frequently enough or for long enough to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder.
  • Limited or infrequent bulimia: An eating disorder in which someone experiences recurrent episodes of binge eating and purging, but not frequently enough or for long enough to be diagnosed with bulimia.
  • Purging disorder: An eating disorder in which someone experiences recurrent episodes of purging without bingeing beforehand. 
  • Night eating syndrome. An eating disorder in which someone binge eats at night, unconsciously eats while they’re sleeping, or eats upon waking in the middle of the night.
OSFED can cause severe mental and physical health issues, similar to those caused by other eating disorders. Since OSFED can be associated with many different disordered behaviors, it affects a large number of people. Approximately 5% of the U.S. population is affected by OSFED.
OSFED symptoms
Eating disorders look different for everyone, and this is especially true for those struggling with OSFED. Since many OSFED symptoms overlap with symptoms of other eating disorders, it can be tough to differentiate OSFED from other diagnoses.  That said, some potential symptoms of OSFED include:
  • Nutritional deficiencies, like anemia
  • Preoccupation with food, weight, or body size and shape
  • Distorted body image
  • Frequent dieting
  • Obsession with “clean” eating
  • Rigid rules about food, including when or what to eat
  • Preferring to eat alone or eating in secret
  • Rituals around eating, including cutting food into very small pieces or eating things in a certain order
  • Binge eating, or eating objectively large amounts of food in a short amount of time while feeling a loss of control 
  • Self-induced vomiting, excessive laxative use, or extreme exercise 
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression, anxiety, or irritability
Recovery is possible
This list of symptoms can be helpful for identifying OSFED, but it’s important to remember that the label you put on an illness doesn’t change the fact that all eating disorders require treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with disordered eating, worry less about finding an exact diagnosis and more about seeking help.  If you’ve noticed some of these OSFED symptoms in yourself or a loved one—or if you’ve noticed other disordered behaviors that aren’t on this list but are concerning—don’t wait to get help. Eating disorders don’t go away on their own, but with the right treatment, lasting recovery is possible for everyone, regardless of their diagnosis.
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