Orthorexia Treatment Plan | How to

Discover effective orthorexia treatment options! From therapy to medication, find the path to reclaiming balance and well-being.

February 1, 2024

Understanding Orthorexia

To effectively address orthorexia and its treatment options, it is important to first understand the condition itself. This section will provide an overview of what orthorexia is, the symptoms associated with it, and the risk factors that can contribute to its development.

What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is a term used to describe an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It involves an extreme preoccupation with consuming only foods that are perceived as pure, clean, and healthy. While a focus on nutritious eating is generally beneficial, orthorexia takes it to an extreme, leading to an unhealthy fixation on food quality and purity.

Individuals with orthorexia may spend an excessive amount of time researching, planning, and preparing their meals. They may also strictly adhere to self-imposed dietary rules, avoiding certain food groups or ingredients they believe to be unhealthy or impure. Over time, this rigid and obsessive behavior around food can negatively impact one's physical and mental well-being.

Symptoms of Orthorexia

Identifying the symptoms of orthorexia is crucial for early intervention and treatment. Common signs and symptoms may include:

  • Obsessive thoughts and preoccupation with food quality and purity.
  • Strict dietary rules and restrictions that progressively become more rigid.
  • Anxiety or distress when unable to adhere to self-imposed dietary guidelines.
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from social events involving food.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame when deviating from strict eating habits.
  • Physical symptoms such as weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, or digestive issues.

Risk Factors for Orthorexia

Orthorexia can affect individuals of any age or gender, but some factors may increase the risk of developing the condition. These risk factors can include:

  • Perfectionistic tendencies or a desire for control.
  • A history of disordered eating or other mental health conditions.
  • Societal pressure and cultural influences promoting a "clean eating" lifestyle.
  • Exposure to social media platforms that emphasize rigid and restrictive eating habits.

It is important to note that while these factors can contribute to the development of orthorexia, they do not guarantee its occurrence. The condition is complex and can vary from person to person.

Understanding the definition, symptoms, and risk factors associated with orthorexia provides a foundation for recognizing and addressing the condition. If you suspect you or someone you know may be struggling with orthorexia, seeking professional help is essential. In the following sections, we will explore various treatment options available for individuals with orthorexia.

The Importance of Treatment

When it comes to orthorexia, seeking treatment is crucial for individuals struggling with this condition. Recognizing the need for professional help and understanding the importance of treatment is the first step towards recovery.

Why Seek Treatment for Orthorexia?

Orthorexia is a serious condition that can have significant physical, emotional, and social consequences. Seeking treatment for orthorexia is essential for several reasons:

  1. Restoring Physical Health: Orthorexia often leads to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances due to the extreme focus on "clean" eating. Treatment helps individuals regain a healthy relationship with food, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients for their overall well-being.
  2. Addressing Emotional Distress: Orthorexia is closely tied to obsessive thoughts and anxiety about food. Treatment provides individuals with the tools to manage these emotional challenges and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  3. Improving Relationships: Orthorexia can strain relationships, as individuals may isolate themselves from social gatherings or struggle with rigid dietary rules. Treatment helps individuals rebuild connections and foster a healthier social life.
  4. Preventing Further Complications: Left untreated, orthorexia can escalate into more severe eating disorders or other mental health conditions. Timely treatment can prevent the progression of the disorder and the development of additional complications.

Goals of Orthorexia Treatment

The primary goals of orthorexia treatment are to help individuals develop a balanced relationship with food, establish a healthier mindset, and improve overall well-being. Treatment aims to:

  1. Challenge Unhealthy Beliefs: Treatment helps individuals challenge and modify rigid beliefs around food and nutrition. It encourages a shift from an extreme focus on "clean" eating to a more flexible and balanced approach.
  2. Address Underlying Issues: Therapeutic interventions explore the underlying factors contributing to orthorexia, such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, or anxiety. By addressing these issues, individuals can develop healthier coping strategies.
  3. Normalize Eating Patterns: Treatment focuses on reintroducing a wide variety of foods and promoting a balanced eating pattern. This includes incorporating all food groups and challenging restrictive behaviors.
  4. Improve Body Image: Treatment aims to foster a positive body image and self-acceptance. It helps individuals develop a healthier relationship with their bodies, recognizing that health is not solely determined by appearance.

Orthorexia Treatment Options

Addressing orthorexia requires a comprehensive treatment approach that focuses on both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder. The following treatment options have been found to be effective in helping individuals recover from orthorexia.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy, often in the form of psychotherapy or counseling, is a cornerstone of orthorexia treatment. Working one-on-one with a therapist allows individuals to explore the underlying factors contributing to their obsession with healthy eating and develop healthier attitudes and behaviors towards food.

Therapists use various evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), to help individuals challenge their rigid beliefs about food and body image. They also provide support, guidance, and coping strategies to address anxiety, stress, and other emotional factors that may contribute to orthorexic behaviors.

Group Therapy and Support Groups

Group therapy and support groups can provide a valuable source of support and understanding for individuals with orthorexia. Participating in a group setting allows individuals to connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges.

Group therapy sessions provide a safe space for individuals to discuss their struggles, share coping strategies, and gain insights from others who are also on the path to recovery. Support groups, whether in-person or online, offer ongoing support and encouragement, fostering a sense of community and reducing feelings of isolation.

Nutritional Counseling

Nutritional counseling plays a vital role in orthorexia treatment by helping individuals establish a healthy and balanced relationship with food. Registered dietitians or nutritionists with experience in eating disorders can guide individuals in developing a flexible and sustainable approach to nutrition.

A nutritional counselor can help individuals develop meal plans that meet their nutritional needs while also addressing their concerns about food quality. They can educate individuals about the importance of variety, moderation, and portion control, promoting a more balanced approach to eating.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment modality for orthorexia. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging distorted thoughts and beliefs surrounding food, weight, and body image.

Through CBT, individuals learn to recognize and modify unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior. They develop strategies to cope with anxiety and perfectionism, ultimately fostering a healthier mindset and relationship with food.

Medication Options

In some cases, medication may be prescribed as part of the treatment plan for orthorexia. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be used to address underlying anxiety or depression that often co-occur with orthorexia.

It is important to note that medication should be used in conjunction with therapy and other treatment approaches. The decision to prescribe medication is made by a qualified healthcare professional based on an individual's specific needs.

By combining these treatment options, individuals with orthorexia can receive the support, guidance, and tools necessary for recovery. It is important to work closely with healthcare professionals to tailor the treatment plan to individual needs and circumstances. Building a strong support network and addressing the underlying psychological factors are key components in reclaiming balance and overcoming orthorexia.

Finding the Right Treatment Approach

When seeking treatment for orthorexia, it's important to find an approach that suits the individual's unique needs and circumstances. In this section, we will explore considerations for treatment selection, the role of healthcare professionals, and the importance of building a support network.

Considerations for Treatment Selection

When considering treatment options for orthorexia, it's crucial to take into account the severity of the disorder, the individual's specific symptoms, and their overall health. Treatment selection may vary depending on these factors. Some individuals may only require outpatient treatment, while others may benefit from more intensive care in a residential treatment facility.

It's also important to consider the underlying causes and contributing factors of orthorexia. For example, if orthorexia is accompanied by co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses these conditions may be necessary. Understanding the individual's unique needs will help guide the selection of appropriate treatment options.

The Role of Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals play a crucial role in the treatment of orthorexia. Seeking help from professionals who specialize in eating disorders and mental health is essential for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. These professionals may include:

  • Psychiatrists or psychologists: These professionals can provide therapy and counseling to address the psychological aspects of orthorexia and help individuals develop a healthier relationship with food.
  • Registered dietitians or nutritionists: These experts can provide guidance on proper nutrition, help individuals establish balanced eating patterns, and address any nutritional deficiencies that may have arisen from restrictive eating habits.
  • Medical doctors: Medical professionals can assess and monitor the individual's physical health, address any medical complications, and provide guidance on overall well-being throughout the recovery process.

Collaboration between healthcare professionals is often necessary to provide comprehensive care and support for individuals with orthorexia. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that all aspects of the disorder are addressed, promoting a successful recovery.

Building a Support Network

Building a strong support network is vital for individuals undergoing treatment for orthorexia. The journey to recovery can be challenging, and having a network of understanding and supportive individuals can provide invaluable encouragement.

Support can come from various sources, including:

  • Family and friends: Loved ones can offer emotional support, understanding, and encouragement throughout the recovery process.
  • Support groups: Joining support groups, either in-person or online, can connect individuals with others who are going through similar experiences. These groups provide a safe space to share struggles, receive guidance, and gain insight from others who have overcome orthorexia.
  • Therapeutic communities: Residential treatment facilities or day programs offer individuals the opportunity to reside in a supportive environment where they can receive intensive therapy, learn coping skills, and connect with peers on a similar journey.

Having a support network not only helps individuals feel less alone but also provides accountability and assistance in maintaining recovery. Remember that recovery is a process, and having ongoing support is crucial to long-term success.

By considering individual needs, seeking professional help, and building a strong support network, individuals with orthorexia can find the right treatment approach to support their recovery journey. Taking these steps is an important part of reclaiming balance and achieving a healthier relationship with food and self.

Tips for Supporting Recovery

Recovering from orthorexia requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder. Here are some tips to support recovery and promote a healthier relationship with food and body.

Self-Care and Stress Management

Practicing self-care and managing stress is crucial in the recovery process. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and reduce anxiety can help individuals cope with triggers and negative emotions. Consider incorporating the following self-care strategies into your routine:

  • Meditation and mindfulness: These practices can help cultivate a sense of calm and self-awareness, allowing you to better recognize and manage negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Physical activity: Engaging in regular exercise can boost mood, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. Choose activities that you enjoy and focus on the joy of movement rather than the calories burned.
  • Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings can provide a healthy outlet for self-expression and reflection. It can also help identify patterns and triggers related to orthorexic behaviors.

Adopting a Balanced Approach to Nutrition

Recovering from orthorexia involves developing a healthier and more flexible attitude towards food. Rather than rigidly adhering to strict dietary rules, it's important to embrace a balanced approach to nutrition. Consider the following strategies:

  • Intuitive eating: Listen to your body's hunger and fullness cues and eat a variety of foods that nourish both your body and mind. Focus on enjoying your meals, savoring the flavors, and practicing mindful eating.
  • Food diversity: Aim to include a wide range of food groups and flavors in your meals. Embrace variety and allow yourself to enjoy foods that may have been restricted during the height of your orthorexia.
  • Moderation: Instead of labeling foods as "good" or "bad," strive for moderation and balance. Allowing yourself to enjoy occasional treats without guilt is an important part of a healthy relationship with food.

Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Food

Recovering from orthorexia involves developing a healthier and more balanced relationship with food. Consider the following tips to cultivate a positive mindset:

  • Challenge food rules: Identify and challenge any strict food rules or beliefs that may have contributed to your orthorexic behaviors. Replace them with more realistic and flexible thoughts about food.
  • Education and awareness: Educate yourself about the dangers of extreme dietary approaches and the importance of balanced nutrition. Understand that a single meal or food choice does not define your overall health or self-worth.
  • Social support: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups who understand your journey and can provide encouragement and understanding. Sharing experiences and insights can be invaluable in the recovery process.

Embracing Body Positivity and Acceptance

Recovering from orthorexia also involves shifting focus away from appearance and embracing body positivity and self-acceptance. Here are some strategies to promote a healthier body image:

  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind and gentle with yourself. Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations and self-compassionate statements.
  • Diversify your social media feed: Unfollow accounts that promote unrealistic beauty standards or trigger negative body image. Instead, follow accounts that promote body positivity, self-love, and acceptance.
  • Celebrate non-appearance-related qualities: Shift your focus from appearance to qualities that make you unique and valuable, such as kindness, intelligence, creativity, and resilience.

Remember, recovery from orthorexia is a journey that takes time and patience. Seek professional help from healthcare professionals experienced in eating disorder treatment to guide you through the process.


Orthorexia is a complex disorder that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. By seeking professional help, building a support network, and adopting healthy coping strategies, individuals can overcome orthorexia and cultivate a healthier relationship with food and self. It's important to remember that recovery is a journey that takes time, patience, and ongoing support. With the right tools and resources, individuals can reclaim balance, achieve optimal health, and live a fulfilling life free from the constraints of orthorexia.