Orthorexia Nervosa is commonly conceptualized as a hybrid of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and an Eating Disorder.
Similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Orthorexia Nervosa consists of both obsessions and compulsions. Orthorexia involves the obsession of maintaining a diet that is “healthy” and “pure”. Individuals with Orthorexia become significantly anxious at the idea of eating any type of food that is considered “unhealthy” or “contaminated”.
Individuals with Orthorexia, compulsively restrict their diet, are often severely underweight, malnourished and unable to perform basic daily activities. At first, they may eliminate a few specific foods from their diet, but over time, their diets often become more and more restricted. Foods that are often avoided are foods that are not organic, vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic or foods that are genetically modified. Eventually, people with Orthorexia may eat only a select number of foods that have been prepared in a manner that they have deemed “correct” or “pure”. Individuals with Orthorexia may experience significant anxiety, consuming foods that are high in calories, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fat, sodium, gluten and dairy. They may also be anxious and/or restrictive about the protein, carbohydrate, fiber, vitamin and mineral content of the food.
Symptoms of Orthorexia
- Excessive concern about the healthfulness of food.
- Spending hours a day planning and obsessing about foods they have eaten or will eat.
- Obsessing over the nutritional content of each food, how food was grown, processed, and/or prepared.
- Avoidance of “unhealthy” or “contaminated” food.
- Purchasing of expensive health food products and supplements.
- Excessive research on nutrition.
- Significant weight loss and malnutrition.
- Difficulty eating in social settings.
- Difficulty allowing others to prepare their food.
If you have some or all of these symptoms and you feel like the above information describes you, see a qualified mental health professional for an assessment. Click here to contact Kimberley Quinlan, LMFT