Orthorexia: Is a Desire for Healthy Eating Making You Afraid to Eat?

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See the signs of orthorexia, an eating disorder that starts with a desire for healthy eating and leaves its victims afraid to eat almost anything at all.

Orthorexia: Is a Desire for Healthy Eating Making You Afraid to Eat?

Have you heard of an eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa? It’s fairly new (the term was coined in the mid-1990s), and because it’s so new, it isn’t yet an official disorder in the DSM-5. It is, however, a real condition that disrupts lives and leads to negative health consequences. Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating that is so extreme it makes people who experience it afraid to eat almost anything.

Wanting to eat well for mental health as well as physical health is a good thing. For some people, though, the desire to be healthy is ironically leading to malnutrition because they experience extreme anxiety about food and its real or imagined health risks. How do you know if you’ve crossed the line between health-conscious and health-obsessed? These orthorexia signs point to a potential problem:

  • Spending large amounts of time analyzing nutrition labels, researching trends, and engaging in online healthy eating communities
  • Feeling physically unwell despite what you think is healthy eating, including digestive problems, low energy, skin and hair problems, and weight loss
  • Restricting your social life because of food concerns
  • Limiting your food intake to a small range of things you trust

If this describes you, you may want to talk to your doctor or therapist about orthorexia nervosa. There aren’t official treatments yet but treating orthorexia like other eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorders has been helpful.

Barclay, R. Sam. (2015). Orthorexia: The new eating disorder you've never heard of. Healthline. Retrieved
April 2020 from  

Orthorexia. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Retrieved April 2020 from

WebMD Medical Reference. (2017). What is orthorexia? WebMd. Retrieved April 2020 from

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2020, May 12). Orthorexia: Is a Desire for Healthy Eating Making You Afraid to Eat?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: May 12, 2020

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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