Causes & Symptoms
Causes of OSFED
As with other eating disorders, there is not one definitive cause for OSFED. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of one having an eating disorder. These are as follows:
- Genetic vulnerability: sometimes illustrated by family history of eating disorders, or other mental health disorders.
- Societal or occupational pressure to look a certain way.
- Experience of trauma, including abuse.
- Experience of anxiety, obsessional or perfectionistic traits.
- Experience of depression or low self-esteem.
- Experience of criticism of own food intake, weight or bodily appearance, for example, bullying.
The symptoms of OSFED are highly variable but will be similar to the disorder that it most-resembles.
If you worry that a friend or loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, there are signs you can look out for. These do not guarantee your loved one has OSFED but can be indicative:
- Issues with eating socially.
- They are expressing excessive concern about their body weight, or shape.
- Evidence of them eating large amounts of food (e.g. food wrappers in the bin, or through food missing in the kitchen).
- Disappearing during or soon after mealtimes.
- Anxiety around mealtimes.
- Evidence of weight change.
- Evidence of purging behaviours (e.g. finding laxative tablets, smell of vomit).
If you feel these may apply to your friend or loved one, it is always best to talk to them about it in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental manner and support and encourage them in getting the help that they need, making sure you are there for them emotionally throughout their journey to recovery. Try to educate yourself about eating disorders before approaching the topic with your loved one to understand better what they may be going through. Talk somewhere private and comfortable, at a time of low distress (i.e. not directly before or after a meal).
Don’t wait too long to approach the subject with them, as the earlier they get help, the better their chances of recovery. However, you must aim to not be too pushy with how you say this, as saying something along the lines of “you need to get help now” can feel harsh and blunt. Aim for something softer but still motivational, such as “I’ll be here to support you in going to get help when you’re ready to do so”.