EDNOS: Most Dangerous, Unheard of Eating Disorder

Inside the secret lives of millions of American women quietly battling every bite.
3:00 | 11/15/12

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Transcript for EDNOS: Most Dangerous, Unheard of Eating Disorder
We were surprised to discover the most common and dangerous eating disorder in america is also the least well known. It's called ednos. More deadly than anorexia or a, affects millions of people across the country. Yet, remains tragically under the radar. Tonight, we're pulling back the curtain, thanks towo young men llowed me this intimate look inside their most private battle. Taylor says she wants to like herself. Looking at myself, I don't like the way I look, at all. Reporter: But she can't turn off the voice inside her head that tells her she's not good enough. Not perfect. It's hard to distinguish between what ed's talking and what's taylor talking. Reporter: Ed, her nickname for her eating disorder. They're like, okay, you you have ednos. I'm like, okay, what is that? Reporter: It stands for eating disorder, not otherwise specified. It encompasses a wide variety of behaviors included in anorexia and bulimia, including restricting and overexercising. In ednos, sufferers don't meet the highly defined criteria for those diagnosis, which doesn't mean they aren't truly sick. Still a misperception out there that these are relatively benign disorders, diets gone bad. These are life threatening, serious illnesses. The highest mortality of a. Reporter: At least 12 million, mostly women, have the illness. Women like taylor. Taylorating disorder began ght yearsgo when she was 12. The pressure to be thin started long before that. I remember once when I was 6, I went to the doctor asking why my thighs were bigger than my friends. Reporter: She had been secretly bingeing, purging and restricting all through high school, keeping up on her dance team. But feeling fat. Have you ever led the way you like? No. Not that I ever remember. Reporter: It wasn't that taylor was losing too much weight, it's that taylor was on a roller coaster. Eating too much or too little and den stroiing her health in the process. I would just throw lunch away. When I parents started noticing, I kind of switched my similar tops a little bit to the BINGEING, PURGING.eporter: Didn't they hear you throwing up? I would do it when they weren't here. Reporter: It was when she got to college things went into crisis mode. Four, five, six, seven. Reporter: Here, front and center on her college dance team. Until ednos sidelined her. I think I realized that I was really sick, that I had to quit my team, because I was collapsing during practices. Reporter: And she realized she needed help. Taylor ended up here at the renfrew center, a renowned eating disorder program. We first met her six months ago. Thank you. Reporter: At renfrew, the first shock for taylor, the numbers that ruled her life, are not allowed. I would weigh myself 7 to 14 times a day. Reporter: No calorie counting, no scales and no talk of pounds, says dr. Dough last bunnell, the vice president of renfrew. You really have to help people change their eati get their brains back online, get their bodies back to a place of functioning regularly. And then the psychological work can really start to take root. Reporter: The first thing renfrew requires is that taylor eat. At first, just a balanced meal at regular time. That was hard enough. But soon, she had to face her fear foods. Foods she either had forbidden herself or had binged on or both. Spaghetti is one of them. It's hard. My stomach's very full and i feel like I'm going to cry. Reporter: Each meal is monitored by a they arapist and must be eaten within an hour. I struggled with the idea of having an eating disorder. I didn't fit. I was not anorexic, I was not bulim bulimic, so I don't have an eating disorder. Reporter: We met another young woman, also battling ednos. 23-year-old allie. Unlike taylor, for allie, once an ivy league softball pitcher, I wasn't about losing weight, it was about regaining her strength. When a shoulder injury sidelined her, she became obsessed with getting back on the field. I had this idea that somehow, if I controlled what I ate, i could never get hurt again. Reporter: She says she restricted to super foods, or so-called clean food. It's this idea of strict, rigid, food rule. It was planning every single meal, portioning,easuring so that I had just not too much, not too little. Reporter: She just wanted to be alone. I did an excellent job of isolating and pushing my friends a way. Reporter: She stopped dating. She worked out constantly. In 13 months, she lost 75 pounds. Not only was allie not back on the field, she stopped men tra menstruati menstruating, lost her ability to concentrate, was always cold and had night sweats. I was scared. I didn't know what was happening. Reporter: For allie, it's meal support treatment. Things are going better. How are you feeling physically and emotionally? I feel satisfied. Emotionally, I feel good I was able to eat slowly, enjoy the food. Reporter: When we checked back in with taylor four weeks after her struggle to eat paspasta, we arrived on pizza day. It's a challenge with me. Reporter: Ed is still wassing in her head. Sitting with your empty plate is hard? Yeah, you lo at it and you think, I just ate all of that. Reporter: Taylor's therapist tries to get her to talk about how she's feeling. How was your meal? Reporter: And suddenly, all the pain comes bubbling out. It was really hard. Okay. The last time I ate pizza, i tried it at home, it was only a couple of times, but I had panic attacks. I didn't have that much anxiety coming into it but once I saw it all on the plate, and then just seeing it now, it just -- i don't feel good. Reporter: Some of the things at you all are having these young women eat seem unhealthy. Chinese food, fast food, even. Pizza. Our goal is not to have them choose to eat pizza. Our goal is to help them learn the skills they can use to deal with challenging situations and generalize from that. Reporter: After months of treatment, both allie and taylor graduate g the renfrew program. Which does not mean life is easy. Even the simple act of shopping for food is still stressful for taylor. When you fill up the cart, I'll have a panic atake. Reporter: Would you say you can cure people of an eating disorderer? I think people can fully recover but it takes quite awhile. The actual recovery rates, at the end of the treatment, are between 50% and 60% and that's a little generous. Reporter: As for allie, she is making greatstrides. Aware her eating disorder is still apart of her life, she has returned to her first love. Softball. Teaching young girls. But I have aways to go and to fool yourself into thinking you're not going to have setbacks is setting yourself up to relapse. Reporter: Taylor returned to college this fall and is now captain of the dance team. Eventually I'm be totally 100% okay and all the thoughts are gone. I'm still working towards that. Reporter: Ed, she says, is speaking a little more quietly. For more information on helping those with ednos, visit abcnews.Com/nightline.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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