Orthorexia is characterized by an obsession with healthy eating. Even though orthorexia is not formally recognized as a mental health condition, orthorexia treatment is needed to reduce symptoms linked to the eating disorder. By creating an orthorexia treatment plan with a mental health expert, you can work to build a healthier, more sustainable relationship with food.
Like other eating disorders, psychotherapy will be an essential element to any orthorexia treatment plan. Psychotherapy covers a variety of talk therapy options implemented by a psychologist, social worker or other mental health professional.
Always find qualified therapists who employ established, evidence-based techniques. Some effective therapies for eating disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a versatile form of treatment that professionals use to manage the symptoms of many mental health and substance use disorders. CBT focuses on understanding the connection between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. By identifying flawed ways of thinking and distorted beliefs about food and the body, CBT can help people develop healthier perspectives and coping skills. Therapists using CBT will challenge clients to confront their fears and anxiety about certain foods by eating them while retraining their thoughts.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Although it was initially devised to treat borderline personality disorder, research has proven dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to be effective in addressing other eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder and now, orthorexia.
DBT aims to teach skills to manage the symptoms of an eating disorder, including:
- Mindfulness, or paying more attention to surroundings and sensations in the body
- Interpersonal communication, or increasing one’s ability to have discussions, listen and establish healthy relationships
- Emotional regulation, or managing feelings
- Distress tolerance, or dealing with challenging and stressful situations
Psychotherapy may be helpful alone, but in many cases, medications combined with therapy can quicken the progress towards recovery. When prescribed by a psychiatrist, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications may be helpful in treatment orthorexia.
Treatment for orthorexia should not only focus on ending unwanted, restrictive eating behaviors. Instead, treatment must focus on creating new, healthy patterns of eating. Nutrition counseling is one way to promote this process. This method of treatment involves meeting with a dietitian or another nutrition expert to learn about healthy eating habits based on each individual’s age and body type. These professionals can help individuals with orthorexia understand how the foods they previously viewed as unacceptable benefit their physical and mental health.
Orthorexia Resources and Support
If you live with orthorexia, remember, you are not alone with your condition. Support groups are available in-person and online for orthorexia and other eating disorders, including:
- Eating Disorder Hope
- National Eating Disorder Association
For more information about healthy eating and eating disorders, visit the following resources:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Treating Orthorexia and Co-Occurring Disorders
At times, orthorexia co-occurs with one or more mental health or substance use disorders. If you have orthorexia, you are at risk of having an exercise addiction as well, since these conditions frequently co-occur. On the other hand, you carry a lower risk of substance use disorders. Having an intense focus on only putting healthy or pure substances in your body means there is no room for alcohol and other drugs.
When orthorexia co-occurs with another condition, treatment providers must address both disorders for treatment to be effective.
For more information about treatment for substance use and eating disorders, contact The Recovery Village. These addiction experts can provide comprehensive treatment. Reach out to a representative today to get started.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013. National Eating Disorders Association. “Orthorexia.” (n.d.) Accessed on March 4, 2019. National Eating Disorders Association. “Types of Treatment.” (n.d.) Accessed on March 5, 2019. National Institute of Mental Health. “Eating Disorders.” February 2016. Accessed on March 4, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013.
National Eating Disorders Association. “Orthorexia.” (n.d.) Accessed on March 4, 2019.
National Eating Disorders Association. “Types of Treatment.” (n.d.) Accessed on March 5, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Eating Disorders.” February 2016. Accessed on March 4, 2019.