About Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder that deals with the over obsession or fixation of what an individual believes to be healthy eating.  It goes well beyond just wanting to eat healthy and becomes the sole focus in a person’s life.  Orthorexia nervosa is at present not medically acknowledged as a medical or mental condition but is believed to be a mental disorder.  No biological cause for orthorexia nervosa has yet been identified. This eating disorder is presently not included in the fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and at present there are no proposals for its inclusion even in the fifth edition of this manual due to be published in May 2013. 

Diagnosing the symptoms of orthorexia nervosa can be a difficult and controversial task. However, based on the experiences of medical practitioners, certain signs of this eating disorder are becoming more apparent.

Symptoms of Orthorexia Nervosa:

A person suffering from this disorder develops an obsession for eating what they feel are only healthy foods.  Weight loss and extreme thinness can be an effect of their compulsiveness.  This disorder is believed to develop from several sources including family habits, economic problems, society trends and recent illness. Sometimes simply hearing something negative about a food can lead to its permanent exclusion from the person’s diet. Men, especially those with a lower level of education, are mostly affected by these influential factors according to a 2004 study published in PubMed, a service of the National Institutes of Health.


Other symptoms may include:

  • Planning a daily menu more then several days in advance.
  • Decreased quality of life and social activity, especially when it involves eating.
    • Being very self-critical about every food they eat and obsessed with eating the perfect diet.
    • Constantly worrying about the quality of food and not being able to just enjoy eating.
    • Defining their self-esteem according to the type of diet they follow.
    • Putting down or having a distorted perception of those people that they deem do not eat healthy.
    • Eating at home where they have total control of the food they eat and withdrawing socially.  Not being able to eat a meal that someone else fixes because they don’t have total control of choosing the foods.
    • Feeling extremely guilty and self-loathing when they eat something they feel is incorrect or they break their diet rules.
    • Choosing foods that are only pure, healthy or typically organic.
    • Not including foods they once enjoyed in the past to maintain their present diet.


If many of these symptoms sound familiar then you or a loved one may be suffering from this unique eating disorder.  This is a serious disorder and just like anorexia nervosa or compulsive obsession can take over one’s life.  Steps should be taken to seek out professional help so the disorder can be effectively treated.


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