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While orthorexia is not considered a clinical term, it is still a term that many use to describe a mental disorder akin to an eating disorder. Orthorexia occurs when a person takes healthy eating to an unhealthy level. Orthorexia is being given a closer look as the problem begins to grow.
Orthorexia, an obsession with healthy eating, is not classified quite yet as an actual eating disorder, according to many disorder scientists and researchers. However, there are enough people with eating disorders that result from this over-healthy way of thinking. New research is discovering that many teens and young women are the most likely to suffer from the mental struggles of orthorexia. The idea behind orthorexia is more that this is a mental illness of possibly anxiety that results when the individuals eats something they believe is "bad " for their body.
What is Orthorexia?
Healthy eating is always a good thing especially in times of obesity in America reaching epidemic levels. However, just like most things: too much can be a bad thing. The healthy foods are not what is bad for teens and adults suffering from orthorexia. The damage that is done by this type of eating disorder occurs when the person becomes obsessive, which is a strong characterization of an eating disorder. Many patients who have been treated and diagnosed with a mental illness like anorexia actually still eat food. They just only eat the foods they believe to be healthy like unprocessed foods, organic vegetables, fruits, no meat, etc. However, the health risks of orthorexia come into play when the individual is not eating enough of a variety of foods and instead is not getting what they need to stay healthy. Missing out on certain nutrients because the teen or adult is cutting out certain foods, can cause malnutrition. Malnutrition is what causes the majority of the health issues that result in the body of a person with an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
Orthorexia often affects teens and young women because they are the ones that are often trying to live up to a idealized image of what women should look like. Because of this they are also more likely to have low self-esteem and use eating disorders like anorexia as a way to cope. Unfortunately taking an obsession, regardless of how healthy it is, can quickly become unhealthy if it is doing damage to the body. Many consider orthorexia to be a pretty controversial topic, which is why the term is still not considered to be official. However, researchers are on the same page that taking an obsession to this level is unhealthy and needs to be treated.
Orthorexia Prevention and Treatment:
Most of the teens, young women, or adults that end up receiving treatment for an eating disorder like orthorexia are diagnosed like they have anorexia and are treated that way. Unfortunately many young women and teens never actively seek treatment for anorexia until major health issues begin occurring. Even more unfortunate are the girls and men with a severe eating disorder who go unnoticed and never get help until it is too late. That is why prevention on such issues is so important. While it is more important than ever to eat healthy, it is also important to recognize that moderation is key. Taking even healthy eating to an obsessive level is unhealthy. That is why if parents notice their teens practicing such restrictive and obsessive eating behaviors need to get them help. This is often the best with psychotherapy and eating disorder support groups. Parents need to be sure and encourage healthy eating, while also teaching moderation to other types of foods. By taking this approach the nation can see these obesity numbers begin to decline and will possibly have such eating disorders like orthorexia also become less of an issue. However prevention is the best way to ensure that happens, which is why parents and educators need to be the ones taking the first step. Learning that healthy balance between eating healthy while not taking it to obsessive levels should be the idea behind every family's eating habits.
Sources: webmd, time.com
Related Article: Warning Signs of Eating Disorders >>