San Diego’s Trusted Source for Orthorexia Treatment
Is eating healthy very important to you? The quality and sources of your food might feel vital. Has it become so important to you that it affects how you spend your time, where you eat, and whether you share meals in social settings? Your focus on food as a hobby and interest may have become a preoccupation. Do you spend a lot of time researching healthy food plans, medical studies, and articles on food sources, values, and foods’ impacts on the body? Do you consider some types of food “good” or “bad”? Has someone who cares about you expressed concern?
If these things sound very familiar to you, you might be struggling with an eating disorder called orthorexia. Orthorexia can result in significant health risks and emotional distress, but orthorexia treatment is available and it is possible to recover. We are here to help.
Orthorexia Nervosa: What is it?
Orthorexia Nervosa, or simply, orthorexia, is a term for a disordered eating pattern marked by a preoccupation with eating healthy food. Orthorexia nervosa does not yet have a diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association (the term is not mentioned as an official diagnosis in the DSM-V), however orthorexia has been identified and treated since the late 1990’s, and it has been the subject of many articles in peer-reviewed journals internationally.
People who suffer from orthorexia nervosa compulsively obsess about healthy eating. They study and subscribe to diets or diet theories focused on good health. Ongoing, endless studies, reports, opinions, and trends on health and nutrition flood the Internet and social media. Though much is yet to be learned about orthorexia, reports of this disorder have increased significantly since the term was introduced twenty years ago.
Orthorexia is an insidious, all-consuming disorder. If a sufferer veers from their self-imposed food rules, they experience exaggerated emotional distress. They may fear any negative physical sensations or consequences to eating something they perceive as unhealthful. Though some sufferers may lose weight as a result of their food choices, weight loss is not a primary goal. Dietary restrictions may escalate over time and result in the elimination of whole food groups. Sufferers may experience constant worry about sickness, and they may fear that veering from healthful eating may put them at risk for illness or life-threatening disease. Someone with orthorexia may not even want to be in the same room as foods they perceive as unhealthful, limiting time at certain restaurants and social gatherings.
As the focus of orthorexia is centered upon healthy eating, orthorexia tends to manifest in adolescents and adults. Contributing factors may include academic study of food and nutrition, other eating disorder tendencies, and social and family relationships and adopted belief systems. Orthorexia sufferers may have a history of dieting, and they may already suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Orthorexia may begin as a quest for good health, but over time become a compulsive, destructive disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Orthorexia May Include:
- Severe weight loss
- Social distress, particularly avoiding activities around food
- Social, academic, or vocational impairment
- Obsessive focus on meal planning, purchase, preparation, and consumption
- Foods are rigidly regarded as “good” or “bad”
- A fixation on the quality of food (locally sourced, organic, non-GMO, etc.)
- Moral judgement of others based upon what foods they eat
- Body image is based on “purity” rather than weight or appearance
- Dietary practices are based upon health-promotion regardless of evidence of malnutrition
Side Effects of Orthorexia
Orthorexia can result in significant health risks, including irritability, depression, anxiety, inability to focus academically or vocationally, malnutrition, other physiological illnesses, and, in rare cases, even death.
Treatment for orthorexia begins with assessment by a psychologist educated in treating eating disorders. Treatment includes individual and group therapies, nutritional counseling and coaching, holistic therapies, and medical assessment and treatment, when indicated. Treatment recommendations and tools for recovery vary according to each individual’s needs, and recovery looks a little different for each person.
Recovery is possible. If you or someone you love is suffering from orthorexia, contact the professional, compassionate staff at Haven Hills and learn more about our comprehensive treatment options (including PHP, IOP and transitional living) for orthorexia. We are here to help.