What is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia is a disordered pattern of eating where individuals have a preoccupation/obsession with healthy eating. This is more extreme than other individuals’ desires to eat “better,” “eat organic,” etc. because it impacts an individual’s functioning.
Even though it is not a formal diagnosis in the DSM-5, it contributes to significant distress for individuals and often interferes with social and professional interactions.
Symptoms of Orthorexia
Individuals with orthorexia often experience:
- Fixation on food quality and purity
- A desire to maximize the health benefits of foods
- There may or may not be an emphasis on weight or body shape
- Feelings of anguish when not eating “healthfully”
- Obsessiveness with planning and preparing healthy meals
- A sense of superiority over others regarding diet and food intake
- Changes to where they will purchase food or where they dine in/get take-out from based on perceived food quality
- A distorted sense of feeling clean or polluted
- A drive for dietary “perfection”
- Avoidance of:
- Artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
- Pesticides or genetic modification
- Fat, sugar or salt
- Animal or dairy products
- Other ingredients considered to be unhealthy
- Other anxiety disorders, OCD, or rigidity in thinking
- Concerns because of food allergies leading to avoidance of foods without formal medical advice
- Noticeable increase in consumption of supplements, herbal remedies or probiotics
Individuals can experience medical complications of restriction of specific food groups and nutrients leading to nutritional deficiencies, Nutritional Deficiencies, anemia, focus and concentration/thinking challenges, low heart rate and other physical effects of restriction if also losing weight, bone changes or loss (osteopenia or osteoporosis).