Understanding Orthorexia: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Understanding Orthorexia: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

What is Orthorexia?
Signs and Symptoms of Orthorexia
Orthorexia vs. Other Eating Disorders
Causes and Risk Factors of Orthorexia
Diagnosis of Orthorexia
Treatment of Orthorexia
Psychotherapy for Orthorexia
Nutritional Rehabilitation for Orthorexia
Medications for Orthorexia
Recovery from Orthorexia

7. Psychotherapy for Orthorexia

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is often the first line of treatment for orthorexia. This type of therapy can help individuals with orthorexia address their underlying psychological issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

There are several types of psychotherapy that may be effective for treating orthorexia, including:

A. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a common form of therapy used to treat various types of mental health disorders, including eating disorders such as orthorexia. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors related to food and body image.

B. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a type of therapy that helps individuals accept their thoughts and feelings, rather than trying to control or eliminate them. This type of therapy can be useful for individuals with orthorexia who may have a tendency to try to control their food intake and body image.

C. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals regulate their emotions and improve their interpersonal relationships. This type of therapy may be helpful for individuals with orthorexia who may struggle with emotional dysregulation and have difficulty connecting with others.

D. Family-Based Therapy (FBT)

FBT is a type of therapy that involves the individual with orthorexia and their family members. This type of therapy can be helpful for individuals with orthorexia who may be struggling with family conflict or who may need additional support from their loved ones.

Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for orthorexia when used in combination with other forms of treatment, such as nutritional counseling and medication (if needed). It is important to find a therapist who is experienced in treating eating disorders and who can provide a safe and supportive environment for the individual with orthorexia to heal and recover.

8. Nutritional Rehabilitation for Orthorexia

Orthorexia is a complex disorder that can significantly impact an individual’s physical and emotional health. Nutritional rehabilitation is a crucial component of the treatment of orthorexia, as it involves reintroducing a balanced diet to an individual who has been strictly adhering to restrictive and limited food choices.

The goal of nutritional rehabilitation is to help the individual develop a healthy relationship with food and to reduce their preoccupation with healthy eating. Nutritional rehabilitation involves working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. The nutritionist will work with the individual to create a personalized meal plan that includes a variety of foods from different food groups.

The process of nutritional rehabilitation for orthorexia may involve several stages. Initially, the individual may be asked to keep a food journal to help them become more aware of their eating habits and patterns. The nutritionist may then work with the individual to gradually introduce new foods and increase their caloric intake. This process can be challenging, as individuals with orthorexia may experience anxiety and discomfort when faced with unfamiliar or “unhealthy” foods.

It is essential that the nutritional rehabilitation process is conducted in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. The individual with orthorexia needs to feel heard and understood, and their concerns and fears about food need to be addressed. The nutritionist may use techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy to help the individual overcome their fears and anxieties related to food.

Nutritional rehabilitation for orthorexia can be a lengthy process, and it may take time for the individual to develop a healthy relationship with food. However, with the help of a qualified nutritionist, the individual can gradually reintroduce a balanced and varied diet, which can have significant positive impacts on their physical and emotional well-being.

In addition to nutritional rehabilitation, it is important that individuals with orthorexia receive comprehensive treatment that addresses the underlying psychological factors that contribute to the disorder. This may involve individual or group therapy, medication, and other supportive interventions. With a holistic approach to treatment, individuals with orthorexia can achieve full recovery and lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

9. Medications for Orthorexia

Medications are not typically used as a first-line treatment for orthorexia, as it is primarily a behavioral and psychological disorder. However, in some cases, medications may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy and nutritional rehabilitation to manage symptoms or co-occurring mental health conditions. Here are some medications that may be used to treat orthorexia:

A. Antidepressants

Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety, which often co-occur with orthorexia. These medications can help regulate mood and reduce anxiety and obsessive thoughts.

B. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are sometimes used to treat severe cases of orthorexia, particularly if the individual is experiencing psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations.

C. Anti-anxiety medications

Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may be prescribed to help manage anxiety and panic symptoms associated with orthorexia. However, these medications can be habit-forming and should only be used under close medical supervision.

It’s important to note that medication should only be prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider and used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Medications should never be used as a substitute for psychotherapy or nutritional rehabilitation.

In addition to these medications, some natural remedies, such as herbal supplements and essential oils, may be marketed as helpful for treating anxiety and depression. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of these remedies for treating orthorexia or any other mental health condition. It’s important to discuss any natural remedies with a healthcare provider before use, as some may interact with medications or cause adverse effects.

10. Recovery from Orthorexia

Recovery from orthorexia is a long and challenging process, but with the right support and treatment, it is possible to overcome this disorder. The following are some steps that can help individuals recover from orthorexia:

  1. Seek Professional Help: The first step in recovery is to seek professional help from a mental health provider. A therapist or counselor can help individuals understand the underlying causes of their disorder and develop a treatment plan.
  2. Address Underlying Psychological Issues: Orthorexia is often linked to underlying psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Addressing these underlying issues through therapy can help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and reduce the risk of relapse.
  3. Work with a Nutritionist: A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help individuals develop a healthy eating plan that promotes balanced nutrition and a positive relationship with food. This can include education about the benefits of a balanced diet, and strategies for incorporating a variety of foods into meals.
  4. Practice Mindful Eating: Mindful eating involves paying close attention to the sensory experiences of eating, such as the taste, texture, and aroma of food. This approach can help individuals reconnect with the pleasure of eating and reduce the anxiety and guilt that often accompanies orthorexia.
  5. Build a Support Network: Recovery from orthorexia requires support from family, friends, and mental health professionals. Joining a support group or seeking support from a therapist can help individuals develop a supportive network of people who understand their struggles and can offer encouragement and accountability.

In conclusion, orthorexia is a complex disorder that can have serious consequences for an individual’s physical and mental health. However, with early intervention and the right treatment, it is possible to recover from this disorder and develop a healthy relationship with food. If you or someone you know is struggling with orthorexia, it is important to seek professional help and begin the journey to recovery. Remember, recovery is possible, and there is hope for a healthier and happier future.


Yes, there are treatment options for orthorexia. Treatment may involve therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or family-based therapy, to address the underlying psychological issues driving the condition. Nutritional counseling may also be helpful in guiding individuals to develop a more balanced and flexible approach to eating. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage anxiety or depression symptoms.

Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating and a preoccupation with the perceived purity and quality of food. It is not officially recognized as a distinct eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but rather falls under the category of “other specified feeding or eating disorder” (OSFED). Orthorexia can lead to significant impairment in daily functioning and can negatively impact physical and mental health.

Signs and symptoms of orthorexia include preoccupation with food and nutrition, strict dietary restrictions, emotional distress, social isolation, and physical symptoms.


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