Orthorexia isn’t yet a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). That said, as the concept of “clean eating” becomes more and more widespread, a disorder called Orthorexia is likewise becoming more common. So what is Orthorexia? Orthorexia involves being rigid about eating “healthy” or nutrient dense foods. Of course, there is nothing wrong with eating foods that are nutritious. That said, those who seek treatment for Orthorexia adhere to rigid rules that interfere with their lives and lead to distress. Food rules are common in all eating disorders. In Orthorexia, food rules often involve moral judgment about what one eats. Indeed, those with this disorder tend to label foods as “good” or “bad.”
Orthorexia and OCD share a number of qualities. Those with each disorder avoid contaminants. With OCD, people often fear they will come into contact with germs. With Orthorexia, people avoid “processed” foods, certain oils, foods that aren’t organic, GMOs, and things that do not fit their view of “healthy.”
It’s strange to think that even eating healthful foods can cause health problems. All the same, Orthorexia really can threaten an individual’s physical and mental wellness. First, when it comes to a person’s day to day life, this disorder is anything but healthy. People skip social events in order to avoid foods that are made by others. Some are so focused on “health” that they ignore other aspects of life that matter to them. As for physical health, people with Orthorexia might struggle because their food choices and what they consider “healthy” are somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes food groups that are crucial (e.g. carbohydrates) might be reduced or cut out because of the latest fad diet.
TREATMENT FOR ORTHOREXIA
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) are both used to treat Orthorexia. The cognitive part of the work involves learning about faulty thinking patterns. By being aware of these patterns, people can spot them in action. For instance, many people with Orthorexia engage in all or none thinking, seeing food as either “good” or “bad.” When they recognize their thinking is flawed, people have the space to choose whether or not to let these thoughts influence their actions.
Mindfulness can also support those with Orthorexia. By viewing thoughts, feelings, urges and sensations non-judgmentally, people can learn to be in the presence of these internal experiences without resisting them. That way, the thoughts, feelings, etc. don’t get to control how the person lives. Meditation helps people to practice dropping rumination. By limiting rumination around food, people reclaim headspace once earmarked for figuring out if foods are “good” or “bad.”
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the behavioral part of CBT. Through ERP, people face the foods they usually avoid and learning how to make space for the discomfort of eating these foods. Many find the idea of ERP overwhlming, but people can do this work at their own pace. Over time, with practice, people become better at making value and goal-based choices while bring their anxiety along for the ride.
INTERESTED IN TREATMENT FOR ORTHOREXIA?
Are you or a loved one struggling with extreme clean eatingand looking for help? Lauren uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Intuitive Eating, Exposure and Response Prevention and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to support those with Orthorexia. You can learn more about the treatments and services she provides here.
Lauren is a licensed psychotherapist in
several states. Learn more about where
Lauren sees Clients, below.
When she is offering face to face, Lauren does in-person therapy in Newport Beach. She also provides online treatment for Orthorexia throughout California. Her Clients span from San Francisco down to Southern Orange County and San Diego.
Lauren provides therapy for Orthorexia in the state of Utah. Since she provides online treatment, she works with people who live in different areas of the Beehive State – from Salt Lake City and its suburbs, like West Jordan, Syracuse, Highland and Riverton, to Park City and St. George.
Lauren also offers treatment for Orthorexia online in Florida, and sees people from all corners of the Sunshine state. Whether you’re from Naples, Orlando, Miami, or Boca Raton, Lauren can provide specialized counseling remotely in your area.
Lauren also practices teletherapy in Arizona. If you’re seeking help with your fears in Phoenix, Sedona, Scottsdale or Tucson, Lauren offers specialized treatment for Orthorexia online across the Grand Canyon State.
In addition to all of the locations previously listed, Lauren offers teletherapy for Orthorexia to a number of countries internationally.
Online therapy isn’t right for everyone. An assessment must be done to determine if online therapy is appropriate for your needs. You can reach out here to learn more.
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©2021 by Lauren McMeikan Rosen, LMFT.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is intended for informational and education purposes only and is not meant to be a replacement for therapy. If you are interested in treatment, you can email me and I will happily provide you with more information