Abnormal eating behaviors that have a negative impact on a person’s mental or physical health are the hallmarks of an eating disorder, a mental illness.

They can have severe effects on one’s physical, mental, and social functioning. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder, pica and rumination disorder, and others are examples of eating disorders.

But have you heard about orthorexia nervosa which is now becoming another important eating disorder occuring in people .




Orthorexia nervosa is a eating disorder that is characterized by excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food.


A couple of studies have estimated that orthorexia impacts between 1% and 7% of the general population. The prevalence of orthorexia has increased in recent years, likely in connection with the rise of social media. A recent study found that 49% of study participants who followed healthy eating accounts on Instagram met criteria for orthorexia.

Orthorexia subjects, in extreme cases, will prefer to starve themselves rather than eatfoods which they consider “impure” and thus harmful to their health


Orthorexia occurs more often in women than it does in men, though additional studies need to be conducted to pinpoint prevalence in both groups.

Symptoms of orthorexia nervosa :

  • Being unable to deviate from a specific eating style or dietary regimen without experiencing extreme anxiety.
  • having an obsession or preoccupation with healthy foods, nutrition, and eating, and cutting out large groups of food despite having no medical, religious, cultural, or ethical reason to do so (e.g., avoiding foods labeled as “unhealthy” G., gluten, sugar, all carbohydrates, all fats, and animal products)
  • Putting in an excessive amount of time planning, purchasing, and preparing meals they believe to be healthy, to the point where it interferes with other aspects of life.



Orthorexia Causes and Risk Factors

Despite the fact that each person’s causes and risk factors are unique, there are three main categories:

  • BIOLOGICAL: Having a relative who suffers from an eating disorder, has a history of dieting.
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL Perfectionism, body image issues, or a history of anxiety
  • SOCIAL/CULTURAL: being teased or bullied because of your weight, having trauma in your family that goes back generations, as Holocaust survivors do, or believing that you should have an “ideal” body.


1]DIGESTIVE ISSUE DURING CHILDHOOD : In childhood period ,if any kind of digestive issue was caused to a person ,their family or themselves tried to avoid those kind of food which hampers their healthy .Reasons that can causes problem can be recurrent abdominal pain which create a stress condition and this could lead to eating disorder or avoiding certain kind of food .

In scientific research it was found that gastrointestinal problem is also related to this disorder. Orthorexia nervosa symptoms and emotional eating were positively correlated with functional gastrointestinal symptoms. Health anxiety had a partial mediating role in the interaction between orthorexia nervosa symptoms and functional gastrointestinal symptoms, whereas symptoms of orthorexia nervosa symptoms played a partial mediating role in the relationship between emotional eating symptoms and functional gastrointestinal symptoms.


Any individual who has a background marked by slimming down can experience the ill effects of this kind as he/she should be obsessed with the possibility of eating beneficial to keep up with weight and taking a stab at all that is causing weight reduction or having faith in unrealistic food beliefs, skipping dinners and want to get more quality food as a method for getting sound which is by implication hampering the everyday approach to eating and can prompt malnourishment ,mental pressure ,hormonal imbalance.


Perfectionism, body image issues, or a history of anxiety- Because of the excessive attention to eating healthily, the excessive amount of time spent on this obsession, and the related dysfunctions in daily life, orthorexia nervosa may be seen as a condition relating to behavior Orthorexia Symptoms and Effects and personality. Given that eating well is linked to anxiety and concerns about eating, health, and food quality, orthorexia nervosa might be seen as a negative behavior.

  • Core beliefs are related to purity, cleanliness, and health as well as core beliefs related to food and self-worth, value, or morality.
  • Disordered familial beliefs surrounding food “purity” and “health.”
  • Tendency toward extremism and obsessiveness.
  • Reportedly feeling pressure to be perfect or achieve perfection/success.


being teased or bullied because of your weight, having trauma in your family that goes back generations, as Holocaust survivors do, or believing that you should have an “ideal” body. Instead of seeing symptom complexes as unique dyscrasias, it is possible to see them as outlets and manifestations of broader social and cultural processes. According to Nicolosi (2006), we now live in a “orthorexic society”, where dietary anxieties have a negative symbolic meaning in our connection with food. Nicolosi identifies three primary causes for this. The first is the waning influence conventional institutions—such as religion, ethnicity, and community—on dietary habits and food consumption.


  • Emphasis on eurocentric beauty standards and the “thin ideal.”
  • Photoshopping and filters that alter the appearance without consumer’s awareness.
  • Messaging that appearance is connected to empowerment/worth/fulfillment/etc.
  • Lack of regulation around what is posted regarding laxatives/diuretics.
  • Disguising laxatives and diuretics as lollipops and shakes that are “weight loss supplements.”


Orthorexia appears to be motivated by health, but there are underlying motivations, which can include safety from poor health, compulsion for complete control, escape from fears, wanting to be thin, improving self-esteem, searching for spirituality through food, and using food to create a Identity.


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Helps individuals to identify and understand unhelpful thoughts that can influence behavior. With CBT, you will learn that by changing your thoughts, you can improve your experiences.
  • Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – This CBT technique is used with individuals experiencing phobias or anxieties around specific objects, experiences or locations. The premise of the model is that the more exposure an individual gets to the fear or phobia, the less powerful it becomes.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Combines aspects of CBT with skills-based techniques to help manage uncomfortable emotions. DBT will help you learn useful coping strategies to replace disordered behaviors and safely manage triggers.
  • Family-Based Treatment (FBT) – Designed for adolescent clients, FBT considers family members and caretakers vital members of the treatment team. Parents and caretakers take part in treatment with their teen so the skills and knowledge learned can become part of their lives at home

Medication that can be used after consulting doctors :

  • In some cases, medication may be recommended to treat underlying conditions such as anxiety or depression. This can be helpful in treating orthorexia by reducing symptoms that may be contributing to the disorder. Although there are no specific medicines for treating disorders, medication can be a valuable tool in managing symptoms. These can include:
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anxiolytics
  • These work by increasing levels of certain chemicals in the brain, which can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety as well as treat the underlying psychological contributors of orthorexia.
  • If you decide to undergo medication, it is important to work with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional who can closely monitor your condition and adjust your medication as needed.


During treatment, people with orthorexia may experience anxiety when eating meals that include foods outside their self-imposed diet. Various complementary and alternative treatments may help reduce this mealtime anxiety.

These include:

  • Yoga
  • Relaxation therapy
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing techniques


  • Reading books and article about orthorexia and other eating disorder.
  • Identifying the trigger food
  • Eating meal regular
  • Avoid dieting
  • Keeping a food journal
  • Finding hobbies and interest
  • Exercise
  • Mindfull based approach

Orthorexia does not have a specific treatment regimen. Currently, eating disorder professionals must choose from existing treatment options, primarily those used to treat anorexia nervosa or obsessive-compulsive disorder, to treat orthorexia. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and education about the condition and nutrition.

Antidepressants and other medications may be used. Medical monitoring may be done to look for signs of malnutrition. Alternative medicine practices may help with anxiety. If social media is a trigger, the person may be advised to stop using it.

Reference :

  • Progetto- Obiettivo Anoressia e Bulimia. Ministero della Sanità, Ufficio stampa, Comunicato n. 222, Roma,20 settembre 2000.
  • Andreoli V., Cassano G., Rossi R.: DSM IV, Manuale diagnostico e statistico dei disturbi mentali. Italian edition, Milano, Masson, 1996.
  • Bratman S., Knight D.: Health food junkies. New York,Broadway Books, 2000
  • Donini, L. M., Marsili, D., Graziani, M. P., Imbriale, M., & Cannella, C. (2004). Orthorexia nervosa: a preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon. Eating and Weight Disorders-Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 9(2), 151-157.
  • . Donini LM, Marsili D, Graziani MP, Imbriale M, Cannella C. Orthorexia nervosa: A preliminary study with a proposal for diagnosis and an attempt to measure the dimension of the phenomenon. Eat Weight Disord. 2004; 9(2): 151–157.
  • . Varga M, Máté G. Eating and body image related problems in orthorexia nervosa. The 17th International Conference on Eating Disorders; 2009 Oct 22-24; Congress Centrum Alpbach, Tirol, Austria. Abstract book. p. 39.
  • Fixsen A, Cheshire A, Berry M. The Social Construction of a Concept—Orthorexia Nervosa: Morality Narratives and Psycho-Politics. Qualitative Health Research. 2020;30(7):1101-1113. doi:10.1177/1049732320911364


  • Dietician Debjani Mondal
  • Health coach at BREATHE WELL BEING .
  • M.sc (food and nutrition), Certified Diabetes Educator.
  • Nutritionist content writer of TEAM NUTRI WORLD.


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