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Orthorexia (also called orthorexia nervosa) is a term used to describe a person who is overly concerned with eating, particularly eating healthy. This term was first used by Dr. Steve Bratman, a physician from Colorado. This is the health food nut gone to the extreme.
While many are rightly concerned with eating healthy and the state of their health, people suffering from orthorexia take this concern to an unhealthy extreme. They become obsessed with what they are putting into their bodies, not just weekly or daily but constantly. From bite to bite and meal to meal they obsessively worry what they're eating may not be healthy.
Similar to other eating disorders, orthorexia can cause problems in various other areas of the sufferer's life. Personal relationships, work, school, and home life can all be victims of being close to a person with orthorexia.
Orthorexia compels people to eat the purest and most healthy diet – all the time. Often this fixation can lead to weight loss with a stringent restriction on food intake. The basis of this intake is not in attempts to lose weight but in the goal of maintaining 'perfect' eating.
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Characteristics of Individuals with Orthorexia Nervosa:
- Loss of weight
- Refusal to eat food prepared by others
- Refusal to eat outside of their own homes
- Planning menus days or weeks ahead
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Socially isolated
- Loss of interest in activities, hobbies, family, and friends
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What to do if You or Someone You Know has Orthorexia:
This condition has become more recognized in recent years, however, it is not currently listed as a disorder in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as an official eating disorder.
When someone has orthorexia they are often misdiagnosed as having anorexia or another problem. Take the time to research the condition and find reputable professionals who are experienced in orthorexia nervosa. Dr. Bratman treats the condition extensively and his website lists a number of references to both literature and professionals competent at helping an individual with orthorexia.