What’s Missing from the Conversation about Eating Disorders?

When you hear the term ‘eating disorder’, what comes to mind?

Is it anorexia?

Or maybe bulimia?

It’s not surprising.

When someone asks me what I do and I explain I’m a psychotherapist who works with clients with eating disorders, they usually tell me about someone they know who’s experienced anorexia.

While it’s a really good thing that awareness around anorexia and bulimia has increased significantly over the years, there’s yet to be the same level of awareness about binge eating disorder or OSFED.

In case you don’t know, OSFED stands for “other specified feeding or eating disorder”.

Any disordered eating – for example compulsive eating or emotional eating – that doesn’t meet the criteria for binge eating disorder, bulimia or anorexia, usually falls under the category OSFED.

It doesn’t mean the eating behaviour is less distressing, it simply means it doesn’t meet the criteria.

So what’s the most prevalent eating disorder in the UK?

The answer is OSFED.

Followed by binge eating disorder,

…then bulimia,

…then anorexia.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder in adolescence but it’s the least prevalent eating disorder.

OSFED and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders and yet they’re often left out of the conversation.


A new study published in The Lancet this month found that 41.9 million cases of binge eating disorder and OSFED were unreported in 2019, because the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) includes only anorexia and bulimia.

As a result, the experiences of 41.9 million people simply weren’t taken into account.

Binge eating disorder wasn’t included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) until 2013.

If you go to your doctor concerned about binge eating or any other form of emotion-driven overeating, the sad fact is you’re more likely to be given diet advice than an eating disorder assessment.

No wonder so many of the clients I work with struggle to believe they’re worthy of help.

It’s time to be better informed about binge eating disorder and OSFED.

It’s time to ensure people suffering with these issues get the help they so badly need and deserve.

It’s time to change the conversation.

©️ Julie de Rohan 2021.

20 thoughts on “What’s Missing from the Conversation about Eating Disorders?

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Julie – I wasn’t aware. When I was younger and my eating was extremely disordered, the only “help” I was offered was praise for being thin or even more disordered diet suggestions when I was bigger. A proper assessment seems so important but hard to come by. I’m glad you’re spreading the word 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sadly, your experience is all too familiar, Karen. There just isn’t enough awareness about these issues and people simply aren’t getting the help they need. It amazes me that often people don’t care how you lose weight – whether it’s healthy and in the best interest of your wellbeing – they just praise you for being thin, as you say. Many thanks for sharing your experience which I think will resonate a lot with others. Hope all is well with you and yours in Canada.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing!!.. thinking perhaps don’t look at some things as a disorder or potential issue because they think it is normal thing to be doing because many in society are doing it, and nothing is being said until it becomes a problem,… perhaps with today’s technology, there can be more thoughts shared and brought to light… 🙂
    “Any piece of knowledge I acquire today has a value at this moment exactly proportioned to my skill to deal with it. Tomorrow, when I know more, I will recall that piece of knowledge and use it better. “ (Mark van Doren)… 🙂

    Until we meet again…

    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having recovered from BED myself, I find it so frustrating that people suffering with these issues generally aren’t being helped in the way they need. Many thanks for your comment, hope you’re OK.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Gosh unfortunately Ive experienced all different elements of this. Its an ongoing process for sure but indeed it feels like the most commonly understood one is anorexia and bulimia and less so the others. Thanks for this eye opening post

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is interesting to know. As I think about it, I don’t hear about eating disorders too much in the States either, only the two you’ve mentioned seem to be highlighted.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And yet binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the States. My concern is that people struggling with BED aren’t always taken seriously and their eating is seen as being greedy, rather than as a sign of acute psychological distress. Good to hear from you, Kathy, hope you’re doing well – many thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You’re so welcome Julie! I’m taking a bit of time off from writing on my personal blog but spending more time visiting others’ blogs 😉

        Maybe if we saw more things as mental illnesses, we’d be a bit better off.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Excellent insight as always, Julie. I’m starting to learn more about the connection between adhd and BED, particularly as they relate to emotional regulation. My own struggles make more sense now that I see the correlations. It seems like the studies are rare but needed. Considering how many people struggle but are “just below the radar” to get help, your work is so important!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Cristy! I’m definitely seeing some correlation between neurodiversity and BED in my practice, so I’m really interested to hear your experience. I agree there needs to be much more research in this area. It’s so good to hear from you – I hope you’re doing well.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for that post. I was binge eating for majority of my life and only two years ego I got a propper diagnose and help. Its’s so important to spread the word, so more people can get help.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your experience. I’m pleased to hear you have a diagnosis and some support – I hope it’s helping you. As you well know, binge eating is such distressing behaviour and often so misunderstood. I hope you’re doing OK and I wish you all the best for your recovery.

      Liked by 1 person

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