Mental Health Week: Invisible eating disorders are secret killers

E.D.N.O.S = the secret killer: invisible to the Eating Disorder Spectrum. Molly Gorman explains the destructive impact of unspecified eating disorders.

The ideology of perfection is all that is needed to make a person crumble; it can push you over the edge and sometimes the fall is too far for you to pick yourself back up again. Anxiety, depression and eating disorders are all contingent and are consequently one of the main killers of young people in the modern world. These issues should not be as widespread as they are today and therefore we must all be aware of how to notice and prevent more people from suffering.

EDNOS is the term used to diagnose an eating disorder which is not otherwise specified. They are unidentifiable sufferers who appear to look ‘normal’ with a healthy weight, meaning doctors believe they do not meet the criteria of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (BED). I believe that millions of people in the UK alone would fall into this category, and although it is a mental issue as serious as anorexia and bulimia, it does not get the recognition and support it so desperately needs. According to BEAT, a nationwide eating disorder charity, “before the latest change in diagnostic criteria, it was estimated that of those with eating disorders, 10% were anorexic, 40% were bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS category which included BED”.

My own health problems with food stemm from this very diagnosis when I was 15 years old and I’m lucky to say that I received help from a charity before my condition deteriorated further. Following an overwhelming urge to lose weight under the pressure placed on myself to be as thin as my friends, I irrationally cut out food groups and dramatically decreased calories to lose as much weight as I could, as quickly as possible. This developed into a rigid problem that was to take over mine and my family’s lives for the next two years, part of which remains with us today. I am lucky however that I can view it as an important lesson of how to maintain a moderate balance in life and learn to love myself, using my experiences to help others.


Due to my own experience with EDNOS, I am able to easily and frequently identify many young people with an unhealthy attitude to food. Some may have orthorexia, some may binge eat, some may be obsessed with exercise. To generalise a possible theory as to why such a large number of people are affected by these issues, I would suggest so many young people are placed under pressure to succeed, to be slim, to be beautiful, to feel loved. When these goals are unattainable, they punish themselves. To see someone you love suffer is the most heartbreaking thing of all.

I feel comforted by the growing awareness of the prominence of eating disorders in the UK. However, I continue to be saddened by the lack of government funding to the mental health sector in the NHS, which has resulted in the deterioration and spiralling downfall into ill health in an innumerable amount of people. There have been an extraordinary number of cases where young people are almost at the point of death yet they cannot be treated or sectioned in hospital for at least six months.

This is why I am so grateful for the charities that are able to provide integral help. First Steps Derbyshire is an example of a local charity that dedicates so much time to helping sufferers, parents and families of all ages with eating disorders and how to approach or deal with them. With support groups, one on one counselling and workshops in schools and universities, a community is formed to enable sufferers and their families to feel less isolated and rebuild relationships. The special and remarkable thing about First Steps is that all of their members of staff are previous sufferers of eating disorders. This therefore gives a more personal and comforting element to those who perhaps are scared of speaking to people who have no understanding of that they are going through. The most important thing they encourage is to not suffer alone.

If you are worried about someone with strange eating obsessions or habits, please get in touch with any of the charities listed below. Additionally, please donate to these amazing charities who do not receive government funding. Without them, many sufferers  would not be in recovery today.

This piece is part of our series of Mental Health Week articles. For more information about student counselling and mental health support at the University of Bristol, please visit:

Image by Joy Molan


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