OSFED: The Most Common Eating Disorders of All

In general, OSFEDs share symptoms with the better known eating disorders. However, they don't meet all the criteria for diagnosis.
OSFED: The Most Common Eating Disorders of All
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 27 June, 2023

It’s true that there are plenty of disorders whose reputations are well known and are spoken about a lot, both by experts and non-experts alike. However, there are others, such as OSFEDs (Other Specific Feeding or Eating Disorders), which aren’t as well known. However, they’re of equal importance. In fact, they constitute one of the most common eating disorders of all. Let’s see what they are.

OSFED types and characteristics: the most common eating disorders of all

Since the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) refers to eating disorders otherwise specified, corresponding to those formerly known as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).

Some of the types of OSFED are as follows:

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa: This is a similar condition to anorexia, however, it doesn’t meet all the criteria.
  • Bulimia nervosa, low frequency and limited duration: This also shares similar symptoms or characteristics with bulimia, but neither does it meet all criteria.
  • Purging disorder: The action of purging is performed, but not compulsively. This is why it differs from bulimia nervosa. Purging is the act of provoking vomiting under the idea that in this way one removes what has been eaten compulsively in a binge.
  • Night eating syndrome: This is characterized by the recurrence of excessive food intake after dinner or upon waking up.
  • Binge eating disorder: This type of disorder involves recognizing the criteria, albeit less frequently or in shorter periods of time. For example, less than once a week.

Causes of OSFEDs

There are multiple causes of OSFEDs, from genetic to social and cultural. However, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that contextual pressure, with messages referring to a hegemonic model of beauty and the perfect body, is harmful.

Body image distorsion.
Body image distortion can be influenced by culturally imposed standards of beauty.

Symptoms of OSFEDs and how they affect the individual

Some of the most common symptoms of OSFEDs are as follows:

  • Variations in weight: an increase or decrease
  • Preoccupation with dieting and weight loss
  • A negative self-perception of the body
  • Excessive preoccupation with exercise
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Alterations in menstruation, even with amenorrhea
  • Reduced sexual desire or low libido

These are some of the symptoms that, in many cases, coincide with traditional eating disorders. However, it’s worth remembering that they differ in some criteria, especially in the frequency or intensity of the symptoms.

In general, what characterizes eating disorders are the behavioral expressions, such as continuously looking in the mirror, the avoidance of food, or rituals related to eating.

Any type of disorder interferes with the functioning and daily life of the people who suffer from them. Someone with an OSFED may avoid meetings to avoid eating, or may attend and then induce vomiting. Of course, this leads to complications on a general health level.

You may be interested in: Types of Bulimia

Treatment of OSFEDs

Like other types of eating disorders, OSFEDs require the following checks:

  • A physical and medical examination, which determines the state of health and the degree of progression or severity of the disorder, in order to choose the best intervention. In some cases, hospitalization may be required.
  • Psychological evaluation and care to help in coping with the disease, to establish self-care guidelines and advice on how to improve nutrition. Sometimes, it isn’t only necessary to work on an individual level, but also on a family level.

How to help:

Here are some recommendations that can help someone who has an eating disorder of any type.

  • The first way to support is to encourage them to ask for help. Most of these disorders require a specific and specialized approach.
  • Avoid any comments about appearance and body, or weight gain or loss. They’re usually harmful and reinforcing.
  • It’s very important to understand that it isn’t a concern about food, but, rather, about the interpretation of the body or appearance. So try to understand that even if you invite that person to eat a salad (or anything else healthy), for them it can be real suffering.
  • Hold a critical view of unique bodies and the hegemonic model of beauty.
  • Show support and interest, but don’t judge. Reinforce the positive aspects that the other person possesses.
A person with OSFED.
Professional help is unavoidable to treat OSFED, but the close group also has to take concrete actions.

Healthy diets sometimes hide common eating disorders

Currently, there are many trends in nutrition which are linked to the respect and revaluation of the body. However, it isn’t about following just any diet that’s offered to you.

It’s important to differentiate between healthy eating practices and when we’re faced with an eating disorder, such as OSFED. Many disorders are hidden under the guise of diets or healthy habits, which means they’re hard to detect in time.

This doesn’t mean that everyone who takes care of their body or follows a diet has a disorder. In order to make that diagnosis, more in-depth checks and appointments are required.

However, we must pay attention, as some suggestions are followed without taking into account each person’s uniqueness, and we can take harmful yet avoidable risks.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Etxeberria, Y., González, N., Padierna, J. Á., Quintana, J. M., & De Velasco, I. R. (2002). Calidad de vida en pacientes con trastornos de alimentación. Psicothema14(2), 399-404.
  • Tapia Ilabaca, P., & Ornstein Letelier, C. (1999). Trastornos de alimentación en estudiantes universitarios. Rev. psiquiatr. clín.(Santiago de Chile), 7-10.
  • Caballo, V. E. (Ed.). (2008). Manual para el tratamiento cognitivo-conductual de los trastornos psicológicos (Vol. 2). Siglo Veintiuno de España.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.