EDNOS: Severity and Associated Behaviors
In today’s world, people will stop at almost nothing to be perceived as beautiful. Unfortunately, physical beauty is often defined by body shape, thin being the obvious preference in America. Sometimes, however, merely being thin isn’t enough. Some people repeatedly look in the mirror only to see their imperfections, only to think themselves unattractive. Such dangerous thoughts may be just the start of an eating disorder.
Eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. These are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males. While each eating disorder poses a specific group of symptoms, sometimes making a diagnosis is difficult. In some instances, a patient doesn’t fall into any distinct category and is said to have an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
EDNOS is a classification “for disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder.” This isn’t to say that EDNOS is not a “real” eating disorder; it’s simply that a person diagnosed with EDNOS is missing or differs significantly from the elements associated with, say, anorexia or bulimia. An EDNOS diagnosis can mean many different things. A patient, for instance, may meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa but still maintain a menstrual cycle. It could mean a patient struggles with severely restricting food intake and has lost significant weight, but is at a fairly normal weight for his or her height. EDNOS could also mean a person meets the criteria for bulimia nervosa but binges less than twice a week, or that the cycles have occurred for less than three months.
EDNOS may be diagnosed when a person eats small amounts of food and then does something to compensate for having ingested that food. Or, it could mean a person engages in a recurrent pattern of binge eating without any compensatory behaviors. In short, EDNOS can be a multi-faceted diagnosis intended to help those who need it even if they don’t fit the criteria of other eating disorders.
EDNOS Is Serious!!
The most important note here is that EDNOS does not mean a person doesn’t have a serious illness. Countless individuals who are diagnosed with this disease are at risk for the same medical complications as those who are diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia. These include (but are not limited to) dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, hormone imbalance, osteoporosis, heart attack, and death.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 24 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Up to 70 percent of these cases come under the EDNOS banner. And, despite the fact that sufferers often look healthy, EDNOS is a condition that comes with serious consequences; it contains a mortality rate of 5.2 percent, higher than both anorexia and bulimia.
To help give some added definition to EDNOS, the following are some examples of behaviors exhibited with this condition:
- The person is always on a diet, always coming off a diet or always getting ready to go on one again.
- The person categorizes foods as ‘safe’ and ‘off limits’ but weighs within normal ranges and is not participating in bulimia.
- The person starves him or herself regularly but is not significantly underweight.
- The person is obsessed with exercising but eats fairly regularly.
- The person binges and/or purges, but not more than once a week.
- The person believes everyone is focused on his or her weight.
Unfortunately, treatment studies specifically for EDNOS are rare. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown to benefit many people with bulimia and would logically be applicable to those with EDNOS who binge or purge. But treatment plans as a whole should be adjusted to meet the needs of the individual concerns. It is important to take an approach that involves developing support for the patient from the family environment or within his or her community environment.