What is orthorexia?
Symptoms of orthorexia
A note about orthorexia
Signs and symptoms of orthorexia
Health consequences of orthorexia
Facts about orthorexia

What is orthorexia?

Although not yet formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the term orthorexia refers to an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating that interferes with normal life. In short, it’s an unhealthy focus on eating healthy.

Signs and symptoms of orthorexia

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
  • Significant distress whentheir ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs or social media
  • Extreme stress if they break their rules about food
  • Excessive concerns about trying to prevent or cure physical illnesses through food
  • Feeling virtuous for the way they eat
  • Feeling morally superior to and judgmental of others who don’t eat in way they see as healthy

A note about orthorexia

Orthorexia is not typically associated with body image concerns. However, sometimes orthorexia can overlap with other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, and in those cases, body image issues might also be a struggle for someone.

Health consequences of orthorexia

Like anorexia, orthorexia involves restriction of the amount and variety of foods eaten, making malnutrition likely. Therefore, the two disorders share many of the same physical consequences, such as:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.

Facts about orthorexia

  • Studies have shown that many individuals with orthorexia also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • The term ‘orthorexia’ was coined in 1998.
  • Without formal diagnostic criteria, it’s difficult to get an estimate on precisely how many people have orthorexia, but experts believe it is on the rise.

Take the The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test to find out if you might have orthorexia.

Please reach out for help and support.

People with orthorexia often misunderstand a lot of information about food and nutrition. Working with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists can help dispel incorrect information about healthy eating and help improve their relationship with food.

If you think you are or someone you care about is struggling with orthorexia, contact us here or click below to schedule an appointment online with one of our therapists or dietitians.