Due to the complexities of eating disorders, there can be many variations in the typical signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. OSFED include eating disorders which do not fit the typical criteria of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa. Many people with eating disorders are diagnosed with OSFED due to the large number of variations in symptoms of eating disorders… this group actually includes the majority of individuals with eating disorders. Individuals may also be diagnosed with a ‘partial syndrome’ if, for example, Bulimic episodes do not occur frequently enough to be diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa or a woman has the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa but still has periods (whether irregular or normal).

Examples of OSFED

Regular compensatory behaviours (e.g. vomiting/laxatives/excessive exercise) after only small amounts of food (rather than after bingeing).

Regularly chewing and spitting large amounts of food.

Binge-eating disorder: Recurrent episodes of binge eating without the regular use of compensatory behaviours (e.g. vomiting/laxatives/excessive exercise).

The ‘partial syndromes’ mentioned above.

Symptoms of OSFED

Due to OSFED encompassing many variations of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, the symptoms experienced will vary from person to person and between the variations. However, symptoms MAY include any number of the following:

  • Have a body weight that is much less or much more than expected for your age and height (depending upon the OSFED you suffer from).
  • Eat very little, if at all, or restrict types of food, such as any containing fat
  • Being secretive about food
  • Cut your food into tiny pieces to look as though you have eaten some, and become obsessed with what other people are eating
  • Deny being underweight or having a problem with food
  • Obsessively weigh, measure and examine your body
  • Have a distorted body image
  • Be obsessed with exercise
  • Use appetite suppressants such as diet pills
  • Make yourself vomit after meals or use laxatives or pills that remove water from your body
  • Wear baggy clothes to disguise your weight loss
  • Secretly hoard away food
  • Self-harm
  • Be obsessed with exercise
  • Become secretive and unwilling to socialise
  • Find it hard to concentrate
  • Feel depressed
  • Not eat with others or disappear to the toilet after meals to vomit the food you have eaten
  • Have a binge-purge cycle at least twice a week for three months or more
  • Have an intense dread of gaining weight
  • Have frequent weight changes
  • Be preoccupied with thoughts of food or cravings
  • Eating much more rapidly than usual
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment at the quantities of food consumed
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Feeling very self conscious eating in front of others
  • Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after bingeing
  • Being unable to purge yourself or compensate for the food eaten

Complications/Physical Symptoms

Due to OSFED encompassing many variations of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, the complications associated with OSFED will vary from person to person and between the variations. However, complications MAY include any number of the following depending upon the disorder which you suffer from:

  • Losing hair from your head
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Altered sleeping patterns and insomnia
  • Constipation, bloating (feeling full) and abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Puffy face and ankles
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Tiredness with aching muscles
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings and restlessness
  • Delayed puberty (as anorexia affects hormones)
  • A loss of sexual interest and potency
  • A sore throat
  • Irregular periods or periods stop altogether
  • Severe dehydration, which can cause weakness, fainting or kidney damage
  • Damage to the heart
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility

Causes of OSFED

The causes of OSFED are not fully understood at present. However, OSFED may develop due to a combination of emotional, physical and social reasons. The precise reasons vary from person to person.

Certain traits are commonly associated with eating disorders including:

  • Perfectionism
  • Need for control
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Obsessive-compulsive characteristics

Diagnosis of OSFED

Getting help is very important. Admitting that you have a problem is the first, yet hardest, step. If you can take that step, you will find the support and treatment you need to stop your eating disorder taking over your life.

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