A specific type of dysfunctional eating, known as Orthorexia Nervosa (ON), begins as a desire to treat or prevent illness or break free of “bad” eating habits but eventually manifests into an unhealthy obsession with eating “good, pure, or clean” foods. Individuals with orthorexia nervosa spend inordinate amounts of time “planning, purchasing, preparing, and eating their meals,” so much that it interferes with other aspects of their lives. This eating disorder is also termed “righteous eating” because the individual will self praise their ability to eat clean and be healthy which often leads to a perfectionistic mindset. Alternatively, when this clean eating approach is not astutely followed, the individual will be overshadowed with feelings of guilt, shame, and failure.
Orthorexia nervosa, like many other eating disorders, results from underlying unresolved feelings and orthorexia nervosa gives individuals a way to overcome their low self-esteem and vulnerable ego. When an individual’s concept of self-worth and identity are wrapped up in such stringent and unhealthy behaviors, the pressure to maintain perfection only worsens, resulting in the continuation of the disorder. No matter what is behind the relationship between orthorexia and perfectionism, the simplest way to combat it is to remember a fundamental truth: perfection does not exist. More often than not, eating disorder treatment is necessary in order to overcome this battle. The psychotherapy approaches offered in eating disorder treatment can allow an individual to acknowledge the underlying feelings and triggers associated with their orthorexia nervosa and find strategies to develop healthy coping mechanisms and ways to live in reality without striving for perfection. In other words, treatment for orthorexia nervosa is more than “just treating an eating disorder”; there are so many deep underlying triggers that must be addressed.
Center For Discovery's Treatment Centers specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.
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Orthorexia nervosa is known to lead to anorexia nervosa, which has the highest mortality rate out of all mental health disorders. Treatment for orthorexia nervosa is also necessary to prevent progression to another eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa. Many individuals will not be diagnosed with orthorexia nervosa until they have developed anorexia nervosa. Unlike anorexia and bulimia nervosa, orthorexia nervosa differs in that its preoccupations are centered on the quality of food rather than the quantity of food. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by significant weight loss and a fear of weight gain, whereas individuals with orthorexia nervosa are not necessarily concerned with weight loss but rather are focused on the desire to establish feelings of health, cleanliness, and pureness, particularly through their eating habits and food choices.
Treatment for orthorexia nervosa alone or in combination with anorexia nervosa does differ, as individuals with anorexia nervosa are focused on weight restoration in treatment. Seeking treatment for your orthorexia nervosa can be challenging, as there are many treatment centers with a multitude of treatment options available. The most important aspect of treatment is making sure you feel comfortable with the treatment center and with your treatment team. If you are not comfortable then you are less likely to be vulnerable about your feelings and your eating disorder, which can create inner personal conflicts during the treatment process. Other important aspects of treatment includes finding a reputable and licensed treatment facility, working out the finances and insurance coverage, debating whether or not to go out of state for treatment, making sure the facility treats co-occurring disorders and provides trauma informed care.