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What Is an “Other Specified” Diagnosis?

When symptoms don’t exactly match a specific disorder

Getting a diagnosis of a mental health or learning disorder depends on having a very specific set of symptoms. Sometimes, it’s clear that a child is struggling, but they’re missing just one or two of the symptoms that are necessary for a certain diagnosis. In those cases, a clinician might give them what’s called an “other specified” diagnosis.

For example, a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) requires that the child experience anxiety more days than not. A clinician might see that a child has all the other symptoms of that disorder and that anxiety is interfering with their life, but their anxiety might not show up on enough days to technically count as GAD. In that case, the child could be diagnosed with “Other Specified Anxiety Disorder.” The clinician would add a note to the diagnosis explaining the reason that the diagnosis is not GAD.

“Other specified” diagnoses are not necessarily less severe (or more severe) than specific diagnoses. A child with this kind of diagnosis may still experience significant distress, even though their symptoms don’t exactly match a typical diagnosis.

“Other specified” diagnoses are not just for children. Adolescents and adults can receive them as well. People with “other specified” diagnoses can often get the same kinds of treatment as those who have been diagnosed with specific disorders, and insurance is just as likely to cover that treatment.

Sometimes, an “other specified” diagnosis will be revised later if the child’s symptoms evolve to better match a specific diagnosis. Other times, the “other specified” diagnosis will continue to make sense throughout the child’s treatment.

“Other specified” diagnoses that children and adolescents may receive include:

  • Other specified anxiety disorder
  • Other specified depressive disorder
  • Other specified attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Other specified bipolar disorder
  • Other specified obsessive-compulsive or related disorder (OCD)
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder
  • Other specified tic disorder

There is also a set of similar diagnoses known as unspecified diagnoses, which you can learn more about here. The main difference is that an unspecified diagnosis doesn’t include detailed information or the reason that the criteria for a specific diagnosis are not met.

Finally, you might see diagnoses that use the term “NOS,” which stands for “not otherwise specified.” This terminology comes from a previous version of the DSM, the manual that clinicians use to make diagnoses. NOS diagnoses were officially discontinued with the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, but some clinicians may still use them. NOS diagnoses work the same way as “other specified” diagnoses in practice.