Unspecified eating disorder: what is it?

Eating disorders (ADD) include mental disorders that focus on eating, body perception, and fear of gaining weight. Typical ADDs are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

however, when all the criteria are not met, but significant symptoms appear, it is called an unspecified eating disorder. In this article, we will know eight of them. We’ll also talk about the causes and treatments for ADD.

Eating Disorders (ED): What Are They?

Eating disorders (ADD) are mental disorders that can be very serious. In them, the fundamental concerns of the patient are food and the perception of the silhouette of the body.

The ADD par excellence are anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In both cases, there is an excessive fear of gaining weight; they are similar disorders, although with a diverse symptomatology. The difference between these two disorders, generally speaking, is that in anorexia nervosa the body weight is usually lower than that of bulimia (and by extension the body mass index [IMC] too much).

In addition, in bulimia, the presence of bulimia attacks and inappropriate compensatory behaviors (vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics …) appears as a diagnostic criterion, which does not occur in anorexia. This does not mean that these symptoms may not appear in anorexia.

Unspecified eating disorder

however, symptoms of one of these two eating disorders can occur, but not all. In other words, there may be times when a person meets certain diagnostic criteria for bulimia or anorexia (or another AIT), but not all of them.

In this case, it is an unspecified eating disorder (ACAN), a type of disorder that affects 3 to 5% of the population. In addition, the terms “atypical anorexia nervosa” or “atypical bulimia” have also been used frequently to refer to the existence of an unspecified eating disorder.

On the other hand, in addition to the cases discussed, the unspecified eating disorder also includes cases in which the patient is in the initial stages of ADD, or recovering from it.

These are disorders that can be just as serious as another specified ADD, or even more. That is why they must always be given the importance they deserve.

What disorders does this category include?

Let’s take a look at the types of unspecified eating disorders listed in the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders).

1. Anorexia nervosa with regular periods

In this type of unspecified ADD, all the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa appear, minus the criterion referring to absent (amenorrhea) or irregular menstruation. In this case, the patient has a regular period. It should be mentioned that the amenorrhea criterion present in the DSM-IV-TR, is eliminated in the 5th edition of the manual (DSM-5).

2. Anorexia nervosa with normopeso

The second type of unspecified eating disorder refers to the presence of anorexia nervosa (with all of its criteria), but that does not meet the criteria indicating that the weight is less than expected for the age, height and height of the patient.

That is, even if the patient has lost a considerable amount of weight, at the time when his weight is normative (it is within the parameters of normality).

3. Atypical bulimia

Another type of unspecified eating disorder is atypical bulimia, In which the diagnostic criteria for this are met, minus the criterion of the frequency and duration of binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors; in this case, they are given less than 2 times a week (the criterion requires at least 2 times a week), or last less than 3 months.

This could also be the case with atypical bulimia where no other criterion than the one mentioned is fulfilled, but all the others are fulfilled.

4. Regular inappropriate compensatory conduct

This eating disorder is not specified it involves the appearance of inappropriate compensatory behavior on a regular basis, After ingesting small amounts of food. The patient who suffers from it has a normal weight according to his age, height and height.

However, there are no other typical symptoms of another eating disorder so you can diagnose bulimia or anorexia, for example.

5. Chew without swallowing

The patient may chew the food and then expel it, Without swallowing anything. It happens with large amounts of food and forms another type of unspecified eating disorder.

6. Compulsive disorder

The so-called compulsive disorder in DSM-IV-TR (proposed for research in Appendix B of the same, and ultimately included as “binge eating disorder” in DSM-5), is another disorder of power supply not specified.

This is characterized by the fact that the sufferer eats large amounts of food without subsequently applying compensatory behavior. inadequate (typical of bulimia nervosa).

Other unspecified TCA

Beyond the Reference Diagnostic Manuals (DSM), and in clinical practice, we can find two other types of unspecified eating disorders which, although they do not appear as official diagnoses in the same manuals, exist (and occur more and more) in the population.

We are talking about vigor and orthorexia. But what does each of them consist of?

1. Vigorexia

Vigor is the pathological obsession with being muscular or muscular. It affects men more often than women and is a (relatively) recent disorder with increasing prevalence.

This obsession with the muscular body results in behaviors such as looking at yourself several times in the mirror throughout the day (whether at the gym, at home, in shop windows …), and eating only substances that promote muscle growth (proteins and carbohydrates). In other words, the person reduces their fat intake (or eliminates it altogether) to avoid losing muscle.

Vigorous people are so obsessed with musculature that, paradoxically, they may be embarrassed to see or watch them (eg at the gym) because they feel like they never have ” enough muscle they want ”.

2. Orthorexia

The second new unspecified eating disorder, also of recent onset, is orthorexia. Unlike the previous one, in this case, the obsession is to eat only healthy foods and exclusively (That is, organically “pure” foods). Unlike “classic” ADDs (bulimia and anorexia), where the obsession resides in the quantity of food (which is the minimum), in orthorexia the obsession is in the quality of the food (which must be the best) . And the healthiest).

Thus, people with orthorexia make diet and healthy eating the center and main goal of their lives; everything revolves around that. If they have to get up early to cook, they do; if they have to go to a wedding, they wear a tupperware so they don’t eat anything that isn’t healthy, and so on. All these behaviors become pathological and only fuel the obsession with the law.

These are people who can spend several hours a day thinking about their diet, what foods to cook, etc. All these symptoms end up causing them significant psychological as well as physical discomfort, since they end up giving up products and foods essential for the proper functioning and functioning of the body.

the causes

The causes of eating disorders and unspecified ADD are usually multifactorial, encompassing social, personal, biological, hormonal factors, etc.. However, there are usually particularly related causal factors; pressure social to be slim and fashions are the root cause of anorexia, for example, especially in women.

On the other hand on the other hand, binge behaviors, for example, are linked to poor coping mechanisms, characterized by impulsivity and an anxious personality.


Ideally, to treat the unspecified eating disorder, follow the treatment for the eating disorder that most closely resembles the unspecified TCA itself. On the other hand, it will always be advisable to treat dysfunctional thoughts related to food, weight and body shape, through cognitive behavioral therapy.

Behavior therapy, on the other hand, is also widely used in this type of disorder, through tabular economy, positive reinforcement, differential reinforcement, etc.

Bibliographical references:

  • Ackard D, Fulkerson J, Neumark-Sztainer D. (2007). Prevalence and utility of diagnostic criteria for DSM-IV eating disorder in youth. International Journal of Eating Disorders; 40 (5): 409-17.

  • APA (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid. Panamericana.

  • Muñoz, R. and Martínez, A. (2007). Orthorexia and vigor: new eating disorders? Eating Disorders, 5: 457-482.

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