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Orthorexia and Your Teen: Symptoms and Treatment

A teen’s relationship with food can cause severe worry for any parent. If you think they may be suffering from orthorexia, you most likely have many questions about what this is and what it means for your child’s health.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It may start out as an innocent attempt to eat healthier foods, but they can quickly become fixated on their food quality and purity. This rigid eating style is often tied to the teen’s self-esteem and they may even self-punish with fasts and additional exercise if they slip up.

Foods that are often avoided:

– Artificial colors, flavors and preservatives
– Pesticides or GMOs
– Fat, sugar or salt
– Animal or dairy products

Orthorexia vs. Anorexia

Orthorexia differs from anorexia in many ways. For starters, it’s currently a proposed eating disorder instead of an officially recognized disorder. Other differences include:

  • Orthorexia is about “correct” eating, while anorexia means “without” eating
  • Anorexia and bulimia focus on quantity of food, while orthorexia focuses on quality of food

Signs and Symptoms

Talk to your child about getting treatment help if you notice these signs or symptoms:

  1. Has self-esteem tied to healthy eating
  2. Feels critical and rigid about eating
  3. Feels guilt and shame when they cannot maintain the standards of their diet
  4. Loses interest in activities they once enjoyed because they are only involved in eating healthy
  5. Thinks critically of others who don’t follow a diet
  6. Spends extreme amount of time and money on food planning and preparation
  7. Has a total elimination of certain food groups
  8. Avoids social events due to a fear of not being able to comply with their diet
  9. Exhibits severe anxiety of how food is prepared

Harmful Effects

If orthorexia goes untreated, it can have negative effects on the sufferer just like any other eating disorder might. These effects include:

– Low immune system
– Osteoporosis
– Kidney failure
– Infertility
– Anxiety or stress
– Heart disease
– Malnutrition
– Social isolation


Recognizing orthorexia can be difficult as the sufferer can easily hide behind the fact that he or she is eating healthy. Before any treatment can begin, your teen must recognize that they have a problem and be willing to work through their emotional issues to get to a life with normal eating habits.

While this isn’t a recognized eating disorder, it still requires professional treatment at an eating disorder facility to get to recovery. The goal is that once recovered, your child will still eat healthy, but it will not completely define their life. Contact us to get your child started down the road to a healthy relationship with food.

Get help today. Call Adolescent Growth at 1-888-948-9998.