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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Feb;47(2):156-64. doi: 10.1097/chi.0b013e31815cd9cf.

Eating disorder not otherwise specified in adolescents.

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  • 1Massachusetts General Hospital, 2 Longfellow Place, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



To examine the frequency, type, and clinical severity of eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) in adolescents seeking treatment through an outpatient eating disorders service.


Two hundred eighty-one consecutive referrals to an eating disorders program were assessed using the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) and self-report measures of depression and self-esteem.


The majority of adolescents presented with EDNOS (59.1%; n = 166) relative to anorexia nervosa (AN; 20.3%; n = 57) and bulimia nervosa (BN; 20.6%; n = 58). Most EDNOS youths could be described as subthreshold AN (SAN; 27.7%; n = 46), subthreshold BN (SBN; 19.9%; n = 33), EDNOS purging (27.7%; n = 46), or EDNOS bingeing (6.0%; n = 10); yet 31 (18.7%) could not be categorized as such (EDNOS "other"). Overall differences in eating disorder pathology, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem emerged between the EDNOS types, wherein adolescents with EDNOS bulimic variants (SBN, EDNOS purging, and EDNOS bingeing) had more pathology than youths with SAN or EDNOS "other." There were no differences in these variables between AN and SAN; in contrast, compared with BN, youths with EDNOS bulimic variants reported lower EDE scores and higher self-esteem, although there were no between-group differences in depression.


As in adults with eating disorders, EDNOS predominates and is heterogeneous with regard to eating disorder pathology and associated features in an adolescent clinical sample. Lack of differences between AN and SAN suggests that the strict criteria for AN could be relaxed; differences between BN and EDNOS bulimic variants do not support their combination.

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