Eating disorders are behavioral problems characterized by disordered eating habits. Most eating disorders appear to be caused by a number of biological, genetic, psychological and social factors. At present, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the only two officially recognized eating disorders. All other eating disorders fall under a “catch all” category known as “eating disorders not otherwise specified,” or EDNOS.

What is EDNOS?

The American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” is the official word on eating disorder symptoms and diagnostic requirements. The most recent version–the DSM-IV–outlines specific physical and psychological eating disorder symptoms. Doctors use this manual to recognize and diagnose eating disorders.

EDNOS encompasses all eating disorders that don’t fit the stringent requirements for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. For example, EDNOS would include a woman who has all the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, but hasn’t missed her period for three consecutive months (a condition known as “amenorrhea”).

This category would also include someone who binges and purges, but doesn’t do so often enough to receive a bulimia nervosa diagnosis. Many people exhibit eating disorder symptoms from both the anorexia and bulimia categories. These too, fall under the EDNOS category.

Other types of EDNOS eating disorders may include:

  • Binge eating disorder: Uncontrolled binge eating without regular purging behavior
  • Food avoidance emotional disorder: Emotional problems affecting the appetite (common in children)
  • Night eating syndrome: Morning anorexia and a large appetite at night, accompanied by insomnia
  • Orthorexia: An obsession with eating only “pure” foods.

Challenges of EDNOS

The very name of this category seems to suggest that it is somehow less serious than either anorexia or bulimia nervosa. However, according to the American Psychological Association (2008), EDNOS is more prevalent than either anorexia or bulimia and just as serious. People with EDNOS exhibit the same behaviors and obsessions as people with anorexia or bulimia, and are at risk for many of the same physical and psychological health consequences.

The current DSM-IV has received much criticism for its highly restrictive diagnostic criteria for eating disorder symptoms. Presently, medical professionals are advocating that the current diagnostic criteria be altered. This would allow more patients to receive an official anorexia or bulimia diagnosis, as well as prompt, appropriate treatment. It would also help to attach an official label to other types of eating disorders not otherwise specified, such as binge eating disorder.


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National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2010). Eating disorders not otherwise specified. Retrieved September 8, 2010, from

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 Posted on : June 13, 2014