Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is also known as Orthorexia. It is an eating disorder which is characteristically recognized by excessive & extreme preoccupation with avoiding variety of foods perceived to be unhealthy. First introduced by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997 as parallel with other eating disorders, he described Orthorexia Nervosa as unhealthy fixation with what the patient considers to be healthy eating, to the point which can lead to severe malnutrition, or even death. Orthorexia sufferers may avoid several foods containing man-made food additives, preservatives, fats, animal products & ingredients considered by him as unhealthy. These people are found to have specific preferences about foods they eat & avoid. Dr. Bratman claims that Orthorexia can be equally dangerous as Anorexia, where the underlying motivation is relatively different. While Anorexic sufferers want to lose weight, Orthorexic sufferers desire to feel pure, healthy & natural.

Joyful woman with fresh produce

Diagnosing Orthorexia Nervosa

Orthorexia Nervosa is still not recognized as a mental disorder by American Psychiatric Association. However, some practitioners have yet documented some damaging results of this condition as witnessed in practices. Diagnostic questionnaire developed for Orthorexia Nervosa, similar to questionnaires on other eating disorders, are found to ask the following questions.

  • Do you spend 3 hours a day thinking about healthy foods?
  • When you eat the way you are supposed to, do you feel in total control?
  • Are you planning tomorrow’s menu today itself?
  • Has quality of your life decreased with increase in quality of diet?
  • Have you become stricter with yourself?
  • Does your self-esteem get a boost from healthy eating?
  • Do you look down on others who do not eat this way?
  • Do you skip foods you once enjoyed so as to eat ‘right’ foods?
  • Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat anywhere but at home, thereby distancing you from family & friends?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loath when you stray from this diet course?

In case two or more questions of these have been answered as yes, it can be diagnosed that the patient is suffering from a mild case of Orthorexia Nervosa.

Orthorexia Nervosa Signs & Symptoms

Nevertheless, it is quite important to differentiate between healthy individuals choosing specific diets for various reasons & those exhibiting obsessive compulsive behavior leading to unhealthy conditions & lifestyle. Tipping the balance from committing to healthy eating &Orthorexia Nervosa is the extreme limitation & obsessive food selection. Orthorexics often find themselves unable to participate in everyday activities. While isolating themselves, they are also intolerant of other people’s views & eating habits. These obsessions for healthy foods can come from a variety of sources like recent illness, economic problems, societal trends, family habits or just hearing negative facts about a particular food type or group.

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Causes for Orthorexia Nervosa

Quite a few studies for Orthorexia Nervosa based research on widespread suspicion that most nutritionally-informed subjects, like university nutrition students, are potential high-risk groups for Orthorexia due to substantial accumulation of knowledge on food & its relationship to health. Studies also reveal that Orthorexic tendencies also fuel a desire to study nutritional science, suggesting that may students in this field might suffer from this disorder before completion of course. However, further research is required to clarify exact relationship between food-education & onset of Orthorexia Nervosa.

Biological Evidence for Orthorexia

Although concept of Orthorexia as mental illness has gathered significant media attention, no investigations have been conducted so as to find out biological causes relating to this disorder. This food-centered obsessive compulsive disorder manifestation can have a lot to do with control. As severity is found to be negatively associating with self-reported executive functioning, excelling in cognitive complex tasks would eventually deter chances of developing Orthorexia Nervosa.

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