Food can be a big part of your identity. For example, you may prefer to eat a particular ethnic food like Italian, Chinese, or Mexican. You may also choose to eat food that is salty, sour, spicy, or sweet. In addition, there may be a diet that you like to follow, like Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, or Vegetarian. Having a particular taste for certain foods is not unusual. Yet, when you develop rigid eating patterns and limit the foods you eat to an extreme level, you can create a condition known as orthorexia.
What Is Orthorexia?
Orthorexia is when you take healthy eating to a highly restrictive level. It is an eating disorder that leads to severe psychological and physical distress. You may start by being conscious about eating healthier foods, but it can become an obsession over time. This compulsion is like people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia. You can have the same psychological and physical deterioration as people with these eating disorders. You will find yourself constantly thinking about how many calories you consume, the health benefits of the foods you eat, and how people prepare the foods.
The Symptoms of Orthorexia
There are many noticeable signs of orthorexia. You may display behaviors that are not consistent with a healthy lifestyle. For instance, you may base your self-esteem on what you eat and how much of it you eat. You may also develop severe anxiety over the dangers of eating certain foods. Other symptoms of orthorexia include:
- Emotional eating.
- Feeling guilt or shame for not maintaining your eating standards.
- Being critical of others for not following your strict dietary standards.
- Avoiding social gatherings that have food that does not comply with your nutritional standards.
Orthorexia can cause severe damage to your health if it is left untreated. Fortunately, there are many treatment options for eating disorders such as orthorexia. However, these treatments are not specific to orthorexia. Instead, healthcare providers use existing treatments for anorexia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Orthorexia treatments include:
- Prescription Medications – Treating orthorexia typically does not start with medications. A doctor may prescribe an anti-depression medication if depression is the main issue.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – A therapist uses this treatment to help patients identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive thoughts and behaviors.
- Education – A mental health expert will educate their patient about the dangers of orthorexia and teach them the importance of eating a balanced diet.
Orthorexia is a newly recognized eating disorder that does not have a mental disorder classification. If you believe you have orthorexia, consult with your doctor to seek appropriate treatment options.