Orthorexia Nervosa: an eating disorder in disguise

By Argie Dabrowski

Eating disorders are characterized by unhealthy relationships with food, whether it be excessive or restricted intake or cycles of binging and purging. The most common eating disorders today are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Orthorexia nervosa is a proposed eating disorder that, paradoxically, revolves around healthy eating. Orthorexic people are not focused on losing weight. Instead, they are trying to achieve the perfect diet, which they believe will be the solution to all of their problems.

Although not officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, orthorexia nervosa has been the topic of many studies and can still be as dangerous as more well-known eating disorders. Those with orthorexia only eat food that fits their standards, such as only containing whole grains or being vegan. This means that they avoid many foods that they see as unclean or unhealthy. Some orthorexic individuals also avoid foods they believe they are allergic too, without actual advice from medical professionals.

At its core, orthorexia is an obsession and those who suffer from it are not simply eating healthy but revolving their entire lives around what and when they eat. Those who have orthorexia have described being completely fixated on food, making it difficult for them to maintain healthy social relationships. These people often avoid social events that involve eating, such as parties, because the food served may not meet their criteria for “healthy” eating. They connect their rigid diet to mortality, as well. Because of this, when failing to meet the standards of their rigid diets, these people feel immense guilt and anxiety.

Besides weight loss, orthorexic people often experience isolation due to the aforementioned social strains. This can lead to depression and further anxiety. Orthorexia nervosa is often clinically treated in a similar manner to anorexia nervosa and obsessive compulsive disorder, which is through exposure to avoided foods.

If you or someone you know needs support for an eating disorder, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com


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