Anorexia nervosa is a common known term. Although the idea of an emaciated person does not always correspond to reality, we know that anorexia nervosa has to do with restrictive eating. But what is orthorexia? The term was first used in 1998 (anorexia nervosa, although under a different name, was already discussed in the 18th century). So, this post is about the differences and overlaps between anorexia and orthorexia .
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or missing of adequate weight gain in growing children); as well as difficulty maintaining an appropriate body weight for their height, age, and body type. Many sufferers also have a body dysmorphic disorder. People with anorexia severely restrict their calorie intake and food choices. Some sufferers also resort to compensatory behaviors such as excessive movement/exercise and/or vomiting and laxatives. Contrary to the assumption that all anorexic people only restrict their eating (type I “restrictive subtype”), there is also subtype II “binge-purge subtype”, in which binge eating and binge episodes as well as compensatory/restrictive episodes occur.
Orthorexia nervosa describes a pathological obsession with a “perfect” diet. It is characterized by a restrictive diet, ritualized eating habits, and a strict avoidance of foods considered unhealthy or unclean. Contrary to the intention of living as fit and healthy as possible, orthorexia nervosa can lead to nutritional deficiencies, medical complications and a reduced quality of life. So, suffering from orthorexia about more than just wanting to eat “healthy”.
Warning signs that someone may have orthorexia:
The most important factors influencing the development and maintenance of both eating disorders are perfectionism and control. Anorexia and orthorexia nervosa result in an excessive focus on nutrition-related issues. The following are additional signs and symptoms that can occur with both anorexia nervosa and orthorexia nervosa:
Anorexia and orthorexia share the same word root “rexia”, which means something like “hunger” in Greek. However, the two disorders differ in many ways, which is also evident from the word parts “ana”, which roughly means “without” and “ortho”, which means “right”. This implies that anorexia nervosa sufferers drastically limit/control their eating habits and orthorexia sufferers take extreme measures to only eat “clean”. The focus at Orthorexia is not on the body (weight), but rather on “health”.
Food focus is characterized in sufferers of anorexia by paying close attention to how certain foods and amounts eaten affect body weight and appearance
For sufferers of Orthorexia, the focus on food results from their close attention to how food affects their “health”. (Health in “..”, since it is about the subjective, self-assessed health)
The therapy and aspects of recovery are similar to those in the treatment of anorexia. It is inevitable that people will face their fears and work through fear foods. At the same time, it is advisable to look at where the desire for health and fitness comes from and which nutritional myths are actually true. Psychotherapy is recommended, as well as nutritional therapy, in which you can learn how to apply the knowledge you have acquired about nutrition in a way that supports you in achieving your life goals and satisfaction.