Orthorexia is not currently recognised as a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5.
For some sufferers, Orthorexic symptoms are an aspect of a recognised Eating Disorder such as Anorexia. For others it is a disorder in it’s own right - while a healthy weight may be maintained a healthy relationship with food and body is not.
Orthorexia is used to describe sufferers who take their concerns about eating 'healthy' foods to extremes, sufferers often restrict their intake to foods which they consider to be 'pure', 'natural', or 'clean'.
Attempts to follow extreme diets which may cut out whole food groups can lead to malnourishment, and sufferers can be left feeling guilty and at fault when their nutritionally inadequate diets lead to constant hunger and the resultant cravings for 'forbidden' foods.
Some sufferers of orthorexia may display obsessive compulsive traits, it may be that these are personality traits, however these may be as a result of starvation rather than a cause of the disorder, this kind of thinking can perpetuate the disordered eating and lead it to become an entrenched behaviour.
Signs and symptoms
- Focus on the virtue of food rather than any pleasure derived from eating it.
- Social isolation.
- Pre-occupation with food and menu planning.
- Feelings of being in control/out of control based on food choices.
- Rigid about 'allowed' foods.
- Rules about the way food is prepared and the utensils used to do so.
- Righteousness over their food choices.
- Guilt and self-loathing when straying from their diet.
- Beliefs that they will be harmed or contaminated by disallowed foods