What Does Orthorexia Mean? Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Orthorexia is a type of eating disorder in which the person concerned is exceptionally fastidious and obsessive about eating healthy food. This takes him to such a level that it can be distressing physically as well as psychologically. Although not recognized as a medical diagnosis, orthorexia can reach a point where it can become life-threatening.

Most people suffering from orthorexia start with an attempt to eat foods that are healthy for overall well being. But a time comes when he starts to cut food items one by one, and this may reach to eat few items only.

He spends most of the time thinking about his food which is similar to that of other food disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

However, unlike anorexia where the person thinks all the time to remain thin, in orthrexia the person thinks all the time to remain natural. Ultimately person who is suffering from orthorexia who has fixity regarding healthy food starts to avoid most foods that are full of nutrition. This will lead to several nutritional deficiencies as well as many other social and psychological problems in his daily life.

Causes And Effects Of Orthorexia

There is no much data or any statistics regarding the prevalence of orthorexia. But each year the number of cases suffering from this disorder is on rise. The condition is mostly observed among people in their late twenties and early thirties. Men and women are equally affected.

The basic reason of orthorexia is an individual’s desire in improving his health and well being. And he believes that can be attained only by eating healthy. But this obsession is at its extreme and reaches to an unrealistic level. There are several reasons that may be linked for such desire such as:

  • Person wants to be thin.
  • May think it may be necessary to overcome chronic illness.
  • It may help to remain fit.
  • It is a way to improve self esteem.
  • To escape from fear.

There are several bad effects of orthorexia. Patient may have several health issues both mentally as well as physically. For example patient will be having low immunity, nutritional deficiencies, may be more anxious and stressed. Malnutrition, osteoporosis, low self esteem, isolation from social life are some of the consequences.

Signs And Symptoms Of Orthorexia

The person suffering from orthorexia will exhibit various signs and symptoms. In majority of cases the person becomes obsessed with a diet that he feels is pure and natural and in doing so he restricts, avoids many food items. This may lead to point of starvation and eventually malnutrition, mental anxiety and social problems in his daily life.

Some of the symptoms of orthorexia are as follows:

  • Avoids various foods that may contain artificial color, flavor or preservatives.
  • Avoids foods products that are treated with pesticides.
  • Restricts eating dairy and animal products.
  • Constant fear of eating something that is unhealthy.
  • Feels angry when a person watches others eating foods that are unhealthy according to his belief.
  • Reduction in food choices which eventually makes his food choices less than even 10.
  • Reduces weight and may become sick frequently due to malnutrition.
  • Reduces interaction with near and dear one who do not share same interest and feeling regarding food that he has.
  • Avoids food that is made by others.
  • Frequent mood swings, depression etc.
  • Spends all of his time on planning meals.
  • Anxious about the way food is prepared.

There are several bad effects of orthorexia. Patient may have several health issues both mentally as well as physically. For example patient will be having low immunity, nutritional deficiencies, may be more anxious and stressed. Malnutrition, osteoporosis, low self esteem, isolation from social life are some of the consequences.

Treatment For Orthorexia

Orthorexia is a serious health disorder and if not recognized and treated will lead to permanent damage to body organs and various other health irreversible health issues. This condition needs both psychotherapy as well as medication.

Psychotherapy is a behavior therapy where the therapist teaches the patient different ways to behave, think, and react to the situation in correct manner without thinking or acting compulsively. Anti-anxiety and anti depressive medicines are frequently used in patient suffering from orthorexia.

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