Orthorexia Nervosa: According to the American National Eating Disorders Association, Orthorexia is the term used to describe an unhealthy focus on eating healthily. This term was coined by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1998 to explain a “fixation on righteous eating.” It comes from Greek, “ortho” meaning “straight “or “correct,” and “orexi” meaning appetite.
People worry about their eating habits as part of their lifestyle; eating nutritious food is good, but if you struggle with orthorexia, you could be obsessing about it to a degree that will damage your overall well-being physically and mentally. This is not yet considered an official diagnosis for eating disorders in the DSM-5,nonetheless, many doctors can agree it is different from Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa, which are characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with the amount of food consumed as well as weight and/or body image, as opposed to the source of food eaten.
Some symptoms of Orthorexia may include:
- Concerning about how ‘clean’ the food is? and worry about getting sick with ‘unclean’ food.
- Avoid eating out or eating food not prepared by yourself, or under your guidance and supervision
- Weight loss and physical signs of malnutrition
- Spending extended time scanning labels to check ingredients
- Restraining certain foods that could potentially be unhealthy (e.g., possible GMO products)
Goals of treatment may include the use of CBT and DBT to understand the obsessive thinking process and learn how to cope with the anxiety healthily, work around nutritional value as opposed to food fear value, learn to become more tolerant or flexible with diverse food options, and understanding how food choices have created a negative impact on life and in daily life activities with family, friends, work, and with yourself.