What Is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia or Nervosa refers to the condition where one is overly obsessed with eating foods believed by others to be “healthy” or “pure.” The word “orthorexia” is derived from the Greek words “ortho,” meaning correct or appropriate”, right”, or “proper,” as well as “rexia,” meaning appetite or desire.

Orthorexia sufferers may be enticed by the nature of the food they consume and may become highly restricted in the kinds of food they consume. They can also avoid certain foods believed to be harmful or unclean, like processed food items such as sugar, gluten and even non-organic food products.

Orthorexia Signs

If you have orthorexia, you could:

  • Be concerned about the quality of the food you eat. A high level of anxiety regarding the quality and origin of food items can result in stress.
  • Do not go out for a meal or have food cooked by others in fear that the food you cook by yourself won’t be up to your standards.
  • Fear sickness. You are worried about what “clean” food is or whether you’re “bad” for your health.
  • Display physical indicators of malnutrition. If you restrict the types of food you consume, it is possible that you need to receive all the nutrients you require. You may shed weight due to this.
  • Spend time researching food. It’s easy to take a few minutes looking at a label on a food item or searching the internet for more details on the ingredients. However, it can take a long time to contemplate food choices and plan your meals if you suffer from orthorexia.
  • Do not consume a variety of food items. It’s normal to avoid certain food items because you don’t like their taste or how you feel. If you have orthorexia, you may eliminate entire categories of food from your daily diet. For instance, you could cut out grains, any food containing the preservatives gluten as well as sugar or other items that don’t appear “healthy.”
  • Be afraid of losing Control. You feel you’re doing the right thing by eating a healthy diet. But you’re worried that eating a single food you did not prepare yourself, even if it’s dining out at a restaurant, is a disaster.
  • Be highly critical of your choices in food. However, you might need a reason to justify your own decisions.
  • You’re in a vicious loop. When you alter and limit your eating habits, your preoccupation with food makes you bounce between guilt and self-love.
Woman with Orthorexia

Orthorexia the causes and risk factors

Everyone can develop anyone can suffer from an eating disorder at any time. Although the causes and risk factors differ from individual to individual, however, they can be classified into three major groups:

  • Biological: Having a close relative with an eating disorder with a background of eating disorders as well as Type I Diabetes
  • PsychologicalPerfectionism and dissatisfaction over your appearance or a past previous history of anxiety
  • Cultural or social: Being bullied or teased about the size of your weight or having experienced trauma in your family that spans generational gaps (as Holocaust survivors do), or believing in the notion of an “ideal” body

Orthorexia Diagnosis

Similar to bulimia and anorexia, and anorexia, your doctor or nutritionist might be able to assist with orthorexia. Due to the emotional components of the disease, they might recommend you visit a medical specialist.

There are currently no standards for making an orthorexia diagnosis since it’s not listed in the DSM-5, which is the standard that doctors employ to diagnose the mental state of disorders.

In the year 2016, Bratman and Thomas M. Dunn, PhD, Professors at the University of Northern Colorado, proposed a diagnostic criterion in two parts for the diagnosis:

Criterion A states that the person has obsessional attention on healthy eating habits and will become anxious about eating choices they think aren’t healthy. They’ll shed weight due to the food choices they make but not due to a desire to. Also:

  • They’ll be obsessed with rules regarding food items they believe will benefit their health.
  • Infractions with the rules can cause fears of illness, guilt, and anxiety over their eating habits.
  • The rules will get more strict as time passes. One can do cleansing.

Criterion B states that a person could be able to identify physical health as well as physical health issues:

  • A restricted diet could result in an inadequate diet, severe weight loss, or other health issues.
  • Their strict rules and beliefs could cause problems with social relations at school or work.
  • Their appearance and self-esteem could be contingent on how closely they adhere to the healthy eating guidelines.

Orthorexia Treatment

The most important thing is to understand that, even while eating healthy food is healthy, how you think about it could be causing harm. It is essential to learn to look at it differently.

If you believe you’re suffering from an unhealthily related to food, Your doctor might recommend a mindful eating strategy. Some standard treatment options include:

  • Prevention of response and exposure: The more you’re exposed to the event that triggers anxiety more it’s likely not to bother you.
  • Modification of behaviour: Understanding the adverse effects of your choices so you can alter your behaviour
  • Cognitive restructuring, also known as cognitive reframing, helps recognize patterns and assumptions that create tension to replace these with more flexible thinking and behaviour.
  • Different types of relaxation training, including breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, guided imagery yoga, Tai Chi
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