Get the Facts on Eating Disorder Treatment for Orthorexia

While it is a more recently recognized eating disorder, Orthorexia Nervosa is a serious mental health condition. Like other eating disorders, Orthorexia has the potential to take over or severely limit your life, affect your mental and physical health, and more.

So, what is orthorexia, and what is orthorexia treatment like? Let’s go over the facts on Orthorexia, treatment options, and how to find help with Emerald Isle Health and Recovery now!

What Is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia - Picky eater analyzing the food

Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with “healthy eating.” People with Orthorexia may severely limit their food choices, only eating certain foods they deem “clean enough.”

If you have Orthorexia, you may:

  • Experience fear of eating foods that aren’t healthy, pure, or clean
  • Have a fixation on learning about health or following health influencers online
  • Struggle to eat at restaurants or eat food that other people cook due to health obsession
  • Eat a self-imposed and restrictive diet, cutting out a growing number of foods or food groups (e.g., no sugar, no salt, no dairy, few to no condiments, and so on)
  • Compulsively check ingredients and nutrition facts
  • Have an unusual interest in what others eat

Of course, these are only some signs, and no two people are alike.

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How Orthorexia Affects Your Life

If you have Orthorexia, you may know how small it can make a person’s life feel. However, it can take time to realize the effects Orthorexia Nervosa has on your life, similar to other eating disorders. Many people who develop Orthorexia Nervosa believe that they are simply eating healthy and that those who show concern surrounding their habits or behaviors are wrong.

In reality, Orthorexia symptoms can lead to:

  • Problems in interpersonal relationships due to one’s fixation on clean eating
  • Growing distant from friends and family or avoiding social events due to food options
  • Distress when “safe” or clean foods aren’t available to eat
  • Trouble focusing on other parts of life
  • Nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition
  • Other health problems

Sometimes, the restricted diet a person with orthorexia maintains leads to weight loss, though not always. Eating food that is pure or clean is the primary focus of these with orthoriexia, and not every person with the condition will lose weight.

Can Orthorexia Lead To Other Eating Disorders?

Many people with Orthorexia have or have experienced other eating disorders, too. While this isn’t always the case, know that you aren’t alone if your obsession with healthy food came along before, during, or after other eating disorder symptoms.

Orthorexia is not currently in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM), but this is not due to lack of severity. Many mental health conditions take time to show up in the DSM. Orthorexia can still lead to a diagnosis, such as Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder, and it is recognized among eating disorder treatment professionals.

Eating Disorder Treatment For Orthorexia

While research on Orthorexia is limited, Orthorexia treatment often follows similar treatment approaches as other eating disorders, like Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or Binge Eating Disorder.

The goal of Orthorexia treatment is to help you let go of a self-imposed restrictive diet, reduce stress and anxiety surrounding food choices, and eat a balanced diet where all foods fit. Usually, this involves psychotherapy and other approaches, such as working with a registered dietician alongside your clinical team, whether at Emerald Isle or elsewhere.

Support Options For Orthorexia And Other Eating Disorders

Support Meal System

It is possible to regain your life after an eating disorder. Many people work with a team of multiple medical professionals as they work on their emotional health and overcome their unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Here are some modes of support you may benefit from.

Nutrition counseling and meal support

Whether you receive Orthorexia treatment inpatient or outpatient, you will typically engage in a combination of nutrition counseling and mental health therapy. Nutrition counseling can help you find peace with food and expose yourself to new foods with the help of a registered dietician.

Meal support refers to eating meals with other people (e.g., other clients in treatment, friends, family, or treatment professionals) in a supportive environment. In inpatient or outpatient settings, some people engage in processing groups after meals.


Therapy is a critical part of comprehensive treatment for most people with mental health conditions. Many different therapies are proven effective and can be used to address eating disorders. An Orthorexia treatment plan might involve individual, family, and group therapy options.

If someone has more than one mental health concern or condition (e.g., obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or family trauma), they may work on both with a mental health professional like a counselor, therapist, social worker, or psychologist in therapy. You may engage in therapy on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

Residential treatment

Residential treatment involves living at a treatment facility for the duration of care. If you attend residential treatment for any eating disorder, you will sleep, eat, and bathe at your treatment facility.

Outpatient treatment

Outpatient treatment programs can vary but usually involve a time commitment of 19 hours per week or less. Unlike residential treatment, you do not live at a treatment facility when you are in an outpatient treatment program. Instead, you attend a treatment facility multiple times weekly for therapy and other activities.

Partial hospitalization programs

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) provides a higher level of support than outpatient treatment. Although it is otherwise similar to outpatient treatment, PHP can involve a time commitment of 20+ hours per week.

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What Forms Of Therapy Help With Eating Disorders?

Many therapeutic modalities might be used as part of your Orthorexia treatment plan. Here are some common forms of therapy you may see used to treat Orthorexia and other eating disorders.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is often incredibly supportive for those with eating disorders such as Orthorexia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa. DBT is derived from CBT and uses many of the same practices, but it focuses more heavily on how you interact with yourself and others. Establishing and using coping skills, like TIPP skills, is another significant part of DBT.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy where you work to recognize maladaptive thoughts and find techniques to redirect or manage those thoughts. In CBT, you’ll often hear maladaptive thoughts referred to as cognitive distortions.

You will learn about the different types of cognitive distortions, like all-or-nothing thinking, and what tools empower you to shift those thoughts, making them more beneficial to you and your well-being.

Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)

A support system and healthy interpersonal relationships are valuable when it comes to recovery and overall mental health. Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a type of therapy that focuses on reducing symptoms by improving interpersonal functioning. Rather than fixating on the past, IPT aims to enhance your current relationships and work through potential problems within them.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy consists of exposure to stimuli that currently leads to negative emotions such as guilt, shame, or fear. When used to treat Orthorexia and other eating disorders, exposure therapy often refers to exposure to foods or food groups that currently cause distress. It’s vital to mention that exposure therapy will be combined with other therapies or skills from other therapies.

It is not the same as telling someone with a restrictive diet to “just eat” to expose themselves to eating foods they’re not comfortable with. Exposure therapy is combined with other treatments, like DBT, so that you can learn coping skills and work through your feelings, allowing you to eat a variety of foods with lower distress over time.

A Safe Space For Healing

Nutrition counseling

If you have Orthorexia Nervosa or think that you might, it is imperative to reach out for help. Emerald Isle Health & Recovery is a mental health and addiction treatment center located in Arizona that helps people like you overcome mental health concerns like eating disorders and co-occurring disorders.

To find out more about how we can support your recovery, call Emerald Isle Health & Recovery now for a confidential consultation or fill out the Contact Us form on our website and get a callback, usually within minutes!

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FAQs on Orthorexia Treatment

What is the treatment for Orthorexia?

Various forms of treatment are used to address Orthorexia Nervosa. Helpful resources can include but aren’t limited to inpatient or residential treatment, outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization programs, one-on-one therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and nutrition counseling.

What triggers Orthorexia?

There are a number of different risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop an eating disorder like Orthorexia Nervosa. Risk factors for Orthorexia Nervosa include but aren’t limited to family history, personality traits, and trauma. Regardless of the cause, Orthorexia recovery is possible, and the right support can help.

Can Orthorexia turn into Anorexia?

It is possible for one eating disorder, like Orthorexia Nervosa, to turn into another eating disorder, like Anorexia Nervosa. In fact, this is not uncommon. It is important to reach out for help if you have an eating disorder of any kind or believe that you might. Eating disorders in all forms are associated with negative outcomes, and you deserve to get the support you need.