Orthorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


Orthorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Everyone loves to eat healthy, and most people love to follow or be on healthy diets, but sometimes, some persons may get too obsessed with their diets that it now causes harm to their body and their whole well-being; this is called Orthorexia Nervosa.

It is an obsession with eating healthy foods, often characterized by restricted behaviours and a search for high-quality foods. The name given to this disorder was derived from two Greek words, “ortho”, meaning correct, and “orexia”, which means appetite, by a physician named Steven Bratman 1997.

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Do you know someone who is always suspecting and checking how genuine food is even when the person is given a hundred per cent guarantee on that? That person may be showing signs of Orthorexia.

It is an unhealthy focus on eating healthy foods. Healthy and nutritious foods are good for the body, but it is no longer a healthy habit when you get obsessed with them.

Warning Signs or Symptoms Associated with Orthorexia Nervosa

There are many symptoms associated with this particular disorder, which you should be aware of. They include:

  • Strict focus on food quality: They show a high level of concern for what they eat, and this can lead to anxiety.
  • Restricting or limiting your diet: Those with this disorder mostly limit their diets and restrict themselves on what to eat and what not to eat. They make regulations and enforce them on themselves.
  • Intolerance or total avoidance of food cooked by others: They will never accept meals they did not prepare; they even get to the extent of rejecting dinner invitations from friends.
  • Fear of eating foods that will damage your health: They worry a lot about the food they will eat, including meals that will not be disastrous to their health and are always afraid of eating food that may harm the body.
  • Makes intensive food research always: They spend three to four hours a day doing intensive and serious studies about the type of food they eat and will never go for anything less.
  • Shows Physical Signs of Malnutrition: Their food does not contain all the essential nutrients needed, so they show signs of malnourishment and malnutrition.
  • Afraid of eating meals prepared at restaurants or food vendors: Those obsessed with eating healthy foods are not always comfortable eating out or eating meals in restaurants; they believe this can be disastrous to their health.
  • A feeling of guilt when you compromise your diet or slip up in it: There is this feeling of guilt whenever they compromise their dietary standard, and they even get to the extent of making vigorous fastings and other unusual activities to make sure they forgive themselves.

Orthorexia: What Is It and What Can You Do About It? | BODi

  • Showing a high level of distress in a situation where the food served does not concur with their dietary standard, and there is no easier way of getting what they will eat.

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Factors that Causes Orthorexia Nervosa

There are many causes of orthorexia Nervosa, but they can be grouped into three main factors these are biological, psychological factors, and environmental factors.

Biological Factors that Causes Orthorexia Nervosa

Some of the cases of eating disorders which exist today were caused by some biological factors which may have been overlooked. These factors include:

  • Having a family history of eating disorder behaviours can make someone or contribute to its reoccurrence in the future.
  • Obsessive personality trait
  • Perfectionistic or rigid personality trait
  • Childhood illness related to diet or nutrition
  • Having a medical problem one believes will be cured or treated through pure eating.


Psychological Factors

Below are the psychological factors that cause Orthorexia in people:

  • Low self-esteemHistoryy of trauma
  • Re-occurring mental health diagnosis, especially OCD or Generalized anxiety disorder
  • The high tendency towards obsessiveness
  • History of dieting
  • Reportedly, feeling the pressure to be perfect or achieve it.
  • Core beliefs related to food, purity, cleanliness, self-worth, and morality

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Environmental factors

Here are some environmental factors which may contribute to or cause these disorders in people as listed below;

  • Forcing oneself to measure up to the false portrayal of life as seen in most social media contents
  • Inability to realize the differences between reality and highly-curated social media content.
  • Trying to model yourself after someone you admire.

How to Treat this Disorder

Although there has not been any formal diagnosis or treatment of Ortghorexia Nervosa, you can treat it using the methods of treating most eating and feeding disorders, which are:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • Family-Based Treatment (FBT)
  • Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)

These are the three main methods of treating most eating and feeding disorders, and they can also be used to treat this same one.


How to Overcome Orthorexia

Here are the best tips that will help you overcome Orthorexia. They include:

  • Seeking medical advice
  • Challenging the rules which you have set concerning the things to eat and what not to eat
  • Try developing positive behaviours concerning food and paying attention to hunger signals, appreciate each meal you take, whether they concur with the standard you set or not and minimize the negative attitudes or feelings of guilt that may result.
  • Do research to find out if any Psychological or emotional factors contribute to the development of orthorexic disorders in you and try fixing them.



Orthorexia Nervosa is simply an eating disorder that is caused by the person’s quest for a healthful diet and healthy living, which always results in obsessiveness; people who have this disorder may exhibit symptoms such as anxiety and also make the individual show physical signs of malnutrition.

Everyone is at risk of having this disorder. However, some factors can put you at a higher risk of having the disorder, such as Biological factors, psychological and environmental factors.

Try tolerating yourself and others, reduce the beliefs and or perceptions you have about some foods; that will be a greater way of stopping and treating this disorder and above all, ensure that you consult your dietician for the best way to treat it so that you can have the best result.


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