Atypical anorexia is a disorder that was recently included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
It happens when the criteria for anorexia are met but the individual’s weight is either within or above a range considered typical for that person.
It is estimated that up to 6 percent of the population has Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders or OSFED, according to the Eating Recovery Center.
“With atypical anorexia, where the eating disorder behaviors are clearly evident, but the weight is not low enough to meet criteria for anorexia nervosa, it is easy for the individual to receive positive reinforcement for the ‘discipline’ they might show in public or the consequent weight loss that may render this individual into a ‘healthier’ BMI,” Joyce Faraj, Phd, RDN, CDN, a nutritionist at Mountainside, shared with Bustle.
It is suggested that weight is not always indicative of health and weight loss does not always equate to metabolic or cardiovascular improvement.
Recent research around body mass index reveals that the long-practiced ratio is not a good way of measuring overall health.
Faraj says that frequent screening of mental health disparities would be a better way to catch an eating disorder before it got to be too extreme.
But despite the science-backed evidence, many folks still engage in toxic diet culture.
And it is this glorification of thinness along with the “positive” reinforcement that fans the flames of those struggling with atypical anorexia.
“For me, my eating disorder as a whole started simply as a means to ‘get healthy’ after freshman year of college,” Kristen Carlstrom , 24, shared with Bustle.
Carlstrom went on to share that while she outwardly focused on losing weight, she was struggling with an obsession with ‘healthful’ eating, or orthorexia, as well as atypical anorexia.
When it comes to eating disorder diagnosis, Faraj says behaviors are what matter most.
Faraj shares that folks who take part in habits or behaviors that help them feel better mentally, physically as well as emotionally are more likely to have better metabolic outcomes as well as decreased stress —- both of which are determinants of health and disease.
People who fit a particular size can all too easily have their struggles with atypical anorexia overlooked.
“A lot of people think only of the physical effects of anorexia, but your brain suffers a lot too,” Carlstrom shares. “You have mood swings and brain fog and you’re fatigued all the time. I got anxiety for the first time, I was in a state of depression for a while.”
But no one noticed these internal changes until Carlstrom’s weight was low enough to cause concern.
“[Though my body had put on this weight], I was still engaging in those anorexic, restrictive behaviors — but to my doctor and society I was simply overweight and I was instructed to begin restricting calories again.”
In cases like the a fore mentioned — it is a reminder of how important it is for medical professionals to reconsider their own subconscious ingrained weight biases to properly care for their eating disorder patients.
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