Like anorexia, orthorexia involves restriction of the amount and variety of foods eaten, making malnutrition likely. Therefore, the two disorders share many of the same physical consequences. While individuals with anorexia might exhibit similar patterns of restriction, orthorexia isn’t necessarily rooted in obsessions over appearance or efforts to lose weight. Orthorexia is entrenched in the need to eat or be healthy. The elimination of entire food groups is a common occurrence, often including processed foods, sugar, meat, dairy products, carbohydrates and/or gluten.
The term ‘orthorexia’ was coined in 1998 and means an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating. Although being aware of and concerned with the nutritional quality of the food you eat isn’t a problem in and of itself, people with orthorexia become so fixated on so-called ‘healthy eating’ that they actually damage their own well-being.
Without formal diagnostic criteria, it’s difficult to get an estimate on precisely how many people have orthorexia, and whether it’s a stand-alone eating disorder, a type of existing eating disorders like anorexia, or a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Studies have shown that many individuals with orthorexia also have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There are currently no clinical treatments developed specifically for orthorexia, but many eating disorder experts treat orthorexia as a variety of anorexia and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Thus, treatment usually involves psychotherapy to increase the variety of foods eaten and exposure to anxiety-provoking or feared foods, as well as weight restoration as needed.
- Obsession with healthy or supposedly healthy diet.
- Increased focus on what they’re eating may interfere with other areas of the person’s life, such as their relationships or work.
- Feeling unable to put aside personal rules about what they can and can’t eat, even if they want to.
- Feelings of anxiety, guilt, or uncleanliness over eating food they regard as unhealthy.
- Emotional wellbeing is overly dependent on eating the “right” food.
- Low mood or depression.
For more see Dr Steven Bratman’s website