Orthorexia or orthorexia nervosa is the name given to a condition which involves a compulsive preoccupation or obsession with dietary purity.
Attention to a “pure” diet becomes problematic when it is an obsession that has a significant negative impact on a person’s life. Whereas anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are marked by a chronic concern for the quantity of food being consumed, orthorexia is characterised by an over-concern with the quality of the food consumed.
Thinking about food and about how it is prepared becomes a means of coping with the stresses of life and avoiding the experience of negative emotions.
For the person with orthorexia, wavering from their “perfect” diet can lead to periods of even stricter rules around food and eating or to periods of fasting.
Psychological therapy can help a person to gain an understanding of the thoughts, beliefs and value that underlie the emotions that are driving their obsession with the ‘right’ diet and help them to restore balance to their relationship with food and to their lives in general.