EDNOS: The Most Common and Deadliest Eating Disorder
Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is what EDNOS and a lot of women (and men) who struggle with body issues fall into this category.
Most people have heard of anorexia and bulimia, but the most widespread and dangerous eating disorder is relatively unknown. EDNOS, which stands for "eating disorder not otherwise specified," describes up to 70% of the 24 million U.S. cases of eating disorders. People with EDNOS suffer from a combination of eating disorder symptoms. They may exhibit many of the same behaviors as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders, but they don't meet all the requirements for diagnosis. They also may have symptoms of more than one eating disorder.
This examples show the diversity of EDNOS symptoms:
- An individual who meets all the criteria of anorexia but has a body weight in the normal range.
- An individual who chews and spits out large quantities of food without swallowing it.
- An individual who binges and purges a few times per week rather than every day.
- A female patient who has symptoms of anorexia but is still having regular periods.
These are just a few examples of the type of behaviors that fall under the EDNOS umbrella. Because anorexia and bulimia have been more publicized, many people feel that they are the most serious eating disorders. EDNOS is in fact a deadly condition and has a 5.2% mortality rate. This is higher than the rates for either anorexia or bulimia.
Who is at Risk for EDNOS?
Experts believe that EDNOS is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. Although EDNOS commonly begins in adolescence or early adulthood, it can occur at any time in an individual's lifespan. It is more common among women, but some men are affected. EDNOS symptoms that are related to binge eating occur almost equally between men and women.
Common Signs of EDNOS
Some of the warning signs of EDNOS include being overly concerned about food and body weight, self-starvation, binging, purging and excessive exercise. Many cases of EDNOS are characterized by cycles of food restriction followed by binging and purging. It is also common for individuals with EDNOS to have many rules about good and bad foods and to use preoccupation with these rules to cover painful feelings or to reduce anxiety.
Medical Complications of EDNOS
People with EDNOS who have symptoms of anorexia or bulimia are susceptible to the same medical complications as individuals who have been diagnosed with those disorders. A restricted diet can lead to low blood pressure, an irregular heart rate, hormone imbalance, and mental and emotional disturbances. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can be the sources of heart problems and in some cases, heart failure.
Treatment for EDNOS
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in either group or individual settings has been found to benefit people who are affected by bulimia, and there are indications that it is also an effective treatment for EDNOS. This therapy focuses on helping patients change distorted thought patterns about food and eating. CBT is often combined with anti-depressant medications and nutritional counseling. Any treatment plan should be adjusted to fit the needs of the individual.