Eating disorders are becoming more and more common nowadays. You might have heard of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In this blog, we will discuss yet another eating disorder known as, “orthorexia.” It can lead to poor nutrition, resulting in adverse health issues. Let’s take a few minutes to understand the signs and symptoms of this eating disorder.

What Is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an unhealthy obsession with eating only “pure” or “clean” foods. The term “orthorexia” comes from the Greek words “ortho,” meaning straight or correct, and “orexis,” meaning appetite. Individuals with this disorder have an extreme fixation on the quality and purity of their food, often avoiding certain foods they deem unhealthy or impure.

Symptoms of Orthorexia

A person with the disorder experiences various symptoms, such as the following:

Food Rules and Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety Symptoms

People enduring the disorder are highly obsessive and focused on food quality. Worrying too much about the food source could lead such people to anxiety. Also, read why adults under 65 need anxiety screening.

Variable Eating Patterns

Variable Eating Patterns

Individuals with orthorexia nervosa are not flexible with their food consumption. These people will avoid bad or unhealthy food, and in extreme cases, they may even choose to eat nothing. 

Symptoms Based on the Purity of Food

Symptoms based on purity of food

A person affected by the problem avoids going out to eat. They worry about food cleanliness, and whether it is good or bad for health. Outside food prepared by others won’t meet their standards. Also, they have less interest in what others are eating. 

Weight Loss

Weight Loss

Your body may not get sufficient nourishment once you limit the food varieties you eat. Additionally, an unhealthy fixation on the diet will result in malnutrition. In these cases, your weight might be reduced drastically. However, this kind of weight loss is unhealthy. While at it, take a look at the weight loss tips from around the world.

Obsessive Food Research

Obsessive Food Research

If you suffer from the disorder, you might spend many hours thinking about planning meals. Surfing the web for more ingredient information and scanning product labels are other symptoms visible in individuals with the disorder. 

Avoiding a Wide Range of Foods

Avoiding a Wide Range of Foods

It’s quite common to avoid a few food items because you never like them. However, people experiencing orthorexia nervosa decide to drop most food categories from their diet. For example, you may stop eating foods that are unhealthy, such as items with sugar, gluten, or other preservatives. 

Orthorexia Statistics

Orthorexia is a topic that’s been studied and researched widely. It affects around 1% to 7% of the general population. Women are more impacted by the disorder than men. However, there are treatment plans and diet modifications suggested by doctors, which have helped many patients combat the disorder.

10 Warning Signs of Orthorexia

Here are the 10 common warning signs associated with the disorder. Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Cutting Out Entire Food Groups

Cutting Out Entire Food Groups

Some individuals avoid eating entire food groups without any medical, cultural, or ethical reason. These restricted food choices result in inadequate nutrition, thereby leading to a huge impact on physical and mental health. Individuals may experience weight loss, malnutrition, fatigue, weakened immune function, hormonal imbalances, and digestive problems. Despite these physical symptoms, they often persist in their restrictive eating patterns due to their obsession with “clean” eating.

2. Fixating on Safe Foods

Fixating on Safe Foods

People with orthorexia nervosa prefer “safe foods.” They like to consume foods prepared by themselves and avoid eating at parties and other social gatherings. By preparing their meals, people with the disorder feel that the food items they are eating are “safe.” 

Such people are always stuck with “safe” or “righteous” eating habits. They spend too much time thinking about the sources of the foods they eat. They might even be worried about food poisoning. Find out whether food poisoning is contagious.

3. Feelings of Guilt

Feelings of Guilt

Individuals with the disorder experience emotional distress when deviating from their dietary rules. They may experience guilt, anxiety, or feelings of failure when they eat foods they consider “impure” or “unhealthy.” Breaking their rules can lead to self-criticism and a need to compensate through further food restrictions or excessive exercise.

4. Isolation


Orthorexia patients usually face social isolation and impaired daily functioning. Since individuals with this disorder prioritize their dietary practices over social engagements, it leads to isolation from others. They may decline invitations to restaurants or social gatherings where they can’t strictly adhere to their food rules. This isolation can strain relationships and impact their overall well-being. Additionally, their extreme focus on food and meal preparation may disrupt their ability to engage in other activities or fulfill responsibilities.

Social isolation can make people feel aloof, and because individuals avoid mixing with people outside their homes, they might even feel depressed. 

5. Exercising Excessively

Exercising Excessively

If people with orthorexia cannot abide by their strict rules regarding food habits (for some reason), they feel extremely guilty, as mentioned earlier. This guilty feeling can make them regret their food choices, leading to excessive exercise at the gym or home. Overexercising is not good for health and can lead to more severe complications, such as mood swings, irritability, tiredness, and trouble sleeping.

Also Read: A New Study- Metabolic Health Benefits of Exercising

6. Fear of Losing Control

Fear of Losing Control

Since people with the disorder concentrate too much on eating safe and clean foods, they often fear losing control when they are outside. They assume that their self-worth entirely depends on following a “healthy” diet. In cases where they feel it’s out of their control, they become extremely anxious. The fear of losing control often occupies their minds, making them paranoid and disturbed. This study on orthorexia nervosa from the National Library of Medicine will prove helpful in understanding the disorder better.

7. Malnutrition


Strict dietary restrictions and rules always swarm in the minds of people with orthorexia. Individuals suffering from this disorder establish rigid rules and restrictions around what they can eat. They may eliminate entire food groups, demonize certain foods as “unhealthy” or “impure,” and create a long list of forbidden foods based on their self-imposed guidelines. These rules often become increasingly strict over time.

Such habits result in undernourished people, whose bodies begin to lack specific nutrients. Not taking sufficient food or not consuming the right type of food items could lead to an unhealthy body and mind.

8. Eating Rituals

Eating Rituals

Eating rituals are compulsive habits that make you interact with food in certain ways. If these are not followed to the ‘T,’ people practicing the rituals become anxious. Individuals having the disorder might practice the following rituals:

  • Eating abnormally tiny pieces of food
  • Making the meals taste bad
  • Ensuring meticulous measurement of the food items
  • Feeling anxious or low if the rituals are not followed correctly

Some try to make their meals taste bad so that they will feel discouraged from eating those particular food items in the future.

9. Constipation


Avoiding the consumption of particular foods, like those rich in fiber, can lead to health complications. Lack of fiber results in constipation among many people with orthorexia. Similarly, refraining from eating other foods rich in particular nutrients may cause a deficiency in those nutrients. 

10. Focus on Only Eating Pure Products

Eating Only Pure Products

As we have discussed, people with the disorder tend to have an obsessive focus on food quality and purity. They become excessively preoccupied with the sourcing of their food. They may spend a significant amount of time researching, reading labels, and seeking out specific brands or organic options. Their thoughts and conversations often revolve around food and its nutritional content.

Orthorexia: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery

Now that you have understood the signs and symptoms of the eating disorder, let’s take a few minutes to look at the diagnosis and treatment for the same.


Eating disorders like orthorexia nervosa can be diagnosed pretty easily. However, people with orthorexia may have symptoms similar to that of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Therefore, consult your doctor/healthcare provider to avoid confusion and get the correct diagnosis. 


The first step in getting treated is accepting that you have the disorder. The different forms of treatment for the disorder are weight consultation and restoration, diet counseling with a dietician, and recovery programs for treating the disorder.


Many people have battled with the disorder and recovered from it. Eating disorders can lead to severe health complications, so it would be wise to get the required treatment as soon as possible. As mentioned earlier, recovery programs can help people get rid of the disorder. Improvements in eating habits might be slow in the beginning, but patience and perseverance are crucial in recovering from the disorder.

If you wish to know more about healthy eating habits, read about the 7 healthy eating New Year resolutions!

Observe the Signs and React Accordingly

Treating or getting treated for orthorexia nervosa can be daunting. However, understanding the signs and symptoms of the disorder can go a long way in finding the right type of treatment. This blog on the signs and symptoms of orthorexia nervosa will help you do just that.  It’s important to note that these warning signs are not exhaustive, and each person’s experience with the disorder may vary.