Orthorexia is a term that was established in 1998 and refers to someone having an unhealthy obsession with healthy food.
A woman or girl who struggles with orthorexia might focus on clean eating, fad diets, ingredient lists, and food planning to the point where her health starts to suffer. As Eating Disorder Hope explains, women and girls who show symptoms of orthorexia often feel isolated from or superior to people who consume foods that they reject.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) doesn’t recognize orthorexia as an official eating disorder, which means medical professionals cannot use it as an official diagnosis. That can lead to women and girls going far too long without seeking or receiving proper orthorexia treatment.
What Are Some Common Signs & Symptoms of Orthorexia?
Following a popular diet, being a vegan, or religiously avoiding certain foods does not mean that a woman or girl needs orthorexia treatment. But if you see some common warning signs and symptoms associated with dangerous eating patterns, it may be time to step in and help. These can include:
- Spending an excessive amount of time planning meals
- Following an increasingly restrictive diet
- Eliminating entire categories of food from a diet
- Linking self-esteem with adherence to a diet
- Hiding or concealing food from others
- Refusing to eat with others, or avoiding food in public
- Being critical of others’ eating habits
- Feeling shame or guilt about failing to meet own dietary restrictions
- Obsessing over nutrition labels
- Significant weight changes
- Lower body temperature
- Sleep problems
What Are the Causes & Risk Factors of Orthorexia?
There is no specific cause that makes a woman or girl more likely to develop orthorexia. But there are a variety of risk factors that can increase the likelihood, such as:
- Genetic: Family history of eating disorders, personal history of trauma or other mental health concerns, possessing certain obsessive personality traits or low self-esteem
- Environmental: Having a job that places an emphasis on being thin, tendency to follow fad diets, having close friends who are meticulous in food choices, following models and certain nutrition sites on social media
What Is the Prevalence of Orthorexia?
Due to orthorexia being a relatively new term that is not an official diagnosis, it’s hard to find many specific statistics related to its prevalence.
However, some studies have noted a few valuable observations.
- A 2017 German study of social media users found that Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia. No other social media platform had that effect, though Twitter usage had a small positive association.
- Of the 713 participants in the study, 680 of whom were women or girls, 49% were found to have prevalence of orthorexia. Less than 1% of the overall population shows orthorexia symptoms.
- A 2017 study of diet, exercise, and health looked at 275 U.S. college students and found that as many as 71% of participants engaged in behaviors that may be symptomatic of orthorexia.
Why Should I Seek Orthorexia Treatment?
If you’re struggling with orthorexia and don’t get the individualized treatment you need, you put yourself at risk for a variety of consequences. Failing to receive orthorexia treatment can lead to:
- Heart and lung damage
- Loss of bone density
- Kidney failure
- Irregular menstruation
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental illness
- Diminished self-esteem
- Suicidal ideation
At Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, we can help you avoid these negative outcomes. By making the decision to enter an orthorexia treatment program, you can prevent any further damage and get started on a path toward a healthier, happier future.
How Do I Choose the Right Orthorexia Treatment?
Orthorexia can leave you feeling hopeless and helpless. Psychologically, you might suffer from damaged relationships that can cut off your support circle, and physically, you might be missing out on essential nutrients, which puts you at long-term risk.
Not every woman or girl experiences orthorexia the same way, so it’s important to choose a treatment center that takes into account your specific needs. That’s exactly how Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center approaches orthorexia treatment.
We believe that each woman or girl who comes to us for orthorexia treatment is unique in her needs, strengths, and goals, so we develop individualized treatment plans that focus on each of those elements. We match you and your experiences with the specific orthorexia treatment programming that will lead to the best outcomes for you.
If you decide to receive orthorexia treatment with us, you’ll participate in either our residential treatment or partial hospitalization program (PHP).
Residential treatment gives you a chance to leave behind the stress of your everyday routine to focus solely on your health while staying in one of our on-campus lodges. At the PHP level, you’ll spend the day in therapeutic programming for orthorexia treatment, but at night and on the weekends, you’re free to return home or to one of our on-campus residences to recharge and reflect on the progress you’ve made.
What Is the Orthorexia Treatment Experience Like?
All the methods and interventions we use in orthorexia treatment at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center are evidence-based. You’ll work with a team of professionals who specialize in the treatment of orthorexia to address the struggles these symptoms have caused and find the best path forward.
Whether you participate in residential treatment or PHP, you’ll follow an orthorexia treatment plan that caters to your specific needs. Within these programs, you’ll experience some common elements of care, such as:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- 12–Step recovery principles
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Meal support
- Experiential therapy
- Medication management
Upon the conclusion of orthorexia treatment, we’ll provide you with a detailed discharge plan that might include a referral to another level of care, helpful community resources, or orthorexia support groups in your area.
We’ll also give you the option of joining our alumnae community so that you can meet women and girls who have shared similar experiences. With the possibility of staying connected online or in person, you’ll be able to find support in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
This content was reviewed and approved by the clinical staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.