Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the "Not Otherwise Specified" diagnosis for eating disorders and what they mean - click here.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are the best-known eating disorders and among the most lethal. However, Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified is also a dangerous, persistent eating disorder that can disrupt an otherwise successful life.
This eating disorder diagnosis is reserved for those patients who do not meet all the criteria of the previously mentioned eating disorders. For example, a patient may severely restrict her diet but not to the point where she experiences an absence of menstruation.
According to some experts, approximately 70% of eating disorders fall under the “Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis.
The presence of this type of eating disorder suggests several important points:
Progressive & Evolving:
Eating disorders are dynamic illnesses and do not always follow one, strict course of development. For example, a young girl may begin her eating disorder by restricting food and then move on to bulimia in which she regularly binges and then purges. The “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis indicates that the eating disorder is responsive to the environment and to the developmental and life changes that often come during adolescence and early adulthood.
This type of eating disorder also demonstrates how difficult it is to classify this illness within one static category. The fundamental problem in eating disorders is the effective management of the self, both emotionally and cognitively. While the symptoms may vary, the basic problem often remains the same.
Since eating disorders can be such stubborn mental health issues, psychologists and neuroscientists are beginning to explore the neurological aspects of eating disorders. For instance, people with eating disorders tend to have difficulty with more abstract thinking and executive functioning – they tend to notice the details and miss the greater picture. At other times, they may be show a lack of cognitive flexibility which means that they struggle to be less rigid and adaptable in handling food and how they feel about themselves.
Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.
The work of Dr. John Lock
The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)