Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED)

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are diagnosed using a list of expected behavioural, psychological, and physical symptoms. Sometimes a person’s symptoms don’t exactly fit the expected symptoms for any of these three specific eating disorders. In that case, they might be diagnosed with an “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED).

This is very common. OSFED accounts for the highest percentage of eating disorders, and anyone of any age, gender, ethnicity or background can experience it. It is every bit as serious as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, and can develop from or into another diagnosis. People suffering from OSFED need and deserve treatment just as much as anyone else with an eating disorder.

As OSFED is an umbrella term, people diagnosed with it may experience very different symptoms. Some specific examples of OSFED include:

  • Atypical anorexia – where someone has all the symptoms a doctor looks for to diagnose anorexia, except their weight remains within a “normal” range.
  • Bulimia nervosa (of low frequency and/or limited duration) – where someone has all of the symptoms of bulimia, except the binge/purge cycles don’t happen as often or over as long a period of time as doctors would expect.
  • Binge eating disorder (of low frequency and/or limited duration) – where someone has all of the symptoms of binge eating disorder, except the binges don’t happen as often or over as long a period of time as doctors would expect.
  • Purging disorder – where someone purges, for example by being sick or using laxatives, to affect their weight or shape, but this isn’t as part of binge/purge cycles.
  • Night eating syndrome – where someone repeatedly eats at night, either after waking up from sleep, or by eating a lot of food after their evening meal.

Like any other eating disorder, OSFED is a very serious mental illness that is not only about the way the person treats food but about underlying thoughts and feelings. The eating disorder may be a way of coping with these thoughts, or a way of feeling in control.

People with OSFED may work to hide their illness and someone may have been ill for a long time before physical symptoms appear, if they do at all. Any of the symptoms associated with bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder can be part of OSFED, and these would come with the same short-term and long-term risks as in the case of these specific eating disorders. As with other eating disorders, it will probably be changes in the person’s behaviour and feelings that those around them notice first, before any physical signs appear. 

Last reviewed: December 2020  Next review date: December 2023 Version 2.1 Sources used to create this information are available by contacting Beat. We welcome your feedback on our information resources.