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What Is an NOS Diagnosis?

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Hi, thank you for reading. My mother just found out a month ago that I had been slicing my legs and wrists since the 6th grade. I started to see a psychiatrist and a therapist at Sherbody Psychiatrists in Greenville. They put me on mood stabilizers but never told me what for specifically. After reading an old journal I asked my therapist about bipolar disorder. She responded that my diagnosis at the moment is NOS. what is this and what does it mean? It might not matter because now that I’ve asked her about possibly being bipolar, she gave me a workbook for teens. I don’t see her for about 3 weeks because I’ll be at camp, and I’d really like to know what NOS is. Thanks again.

What Is an NOS Diagnosis?

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NOS is an abbreviation that stands for “not otherwise specified.” It was formerly used as a clinical diagnostic descriptor when an individual was experiencing mental health symptoms but did not meet the formal criteria for a particular mental illness. In the latest edition of the manual used by clinicians to diagnose mental illnesses, the DSM-5, NOS has been replaced with the terms “other” or “unspecified.”

The NOS may have been used, in your case, because your symptoms weren’t specific enough to warrant a particular diagnosis. Your treatment team may also be using the NOS in place of a diagnosis because of your age. Many clinicians are reluctant to “label” young people with a diagnosis. They fear that by giving a diagnosis a labeling effect will occur. Some therapists believe that when someone is given a label, especially a young person, they might read about it and adopt the behavior and outlook of someone with that label. Also future clinicians may read the label and treat the label and not the individual. That’s possible, but in your case perhaps you don’t simply fit a category. When you return home you can discuss this more fully with your therapist.

It’s a positive sign that you are participating in treatment. People who are open to treatment have a much better prognosis than individuals who deny their symptoms or refuse to seek help. Keep up the great work. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

What Is an NOS Diagnosis?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). What Is an NOS Diagnosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Jun 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.