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In 1997, Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term orthorexia to help his patients realize that instead of being healthy, their eating habits were disordered. Then in 2004, Dr. Bratman expanded his theory of orthorexia in his book, Health Food Junkies. Dr. Bratman created a self-test for orthorexia, which has spurred other diagnostic tools but has not been well-validated by studies.

In 2015, he helped draft the proposed diagnostic criteria, defining it as an obsession with healthy eating that leads to consequences such as malnutrition, mental distress, social isolation, and poor body image. Still, as with most mental health conditions, finding the demarcation line between normal and problematic behavior is difficult.

What’s the Difference Between Anorexia & Orthorexia?

Unlike anorexia, orthorexia is typically motivated by ideals of health, purity, or virtue, rather than weight loss, according to Dr. Bratman’s definition. The only problem is that unlike anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, orthorexia nervosa is not an official disorder as it is not recognized as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the most widely recognized guide to mental health disorders created by the American Psychiatric Association.

Orthorexia nervosa, as originally defined by Dr. Bratman, indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. Orthorexics may eliminate entire groups of food — such as dairy or grains — from their diets, later eliminating another group of food, and another, all in the quest for a “perfect” clean, healthy diet. For orthorexics, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted.

Social Media & Orthorexia

The prevalence of wellness influencers and “clean eating” accounts on Instagram—which can perpetuate the notion that foods are inherently good or bad—isn’t helping matters. A December 2019 study found that frequent social media use, particularly on image-heavy platforms, is associated with disordered eating among adolescents.

While experts agree that social media use rarely causes an eating disorder by itself, it can contribute to problematic thinking by peddling misinformation and conflating wellness decisions with someone’s identity. It also normalizes behavior that may not be as healthy as it appears.

Speak to an Insurance Lawyer at Our Firm Today

At Kantor & Kantor, LLP, we know that Orthorexia is a serious issue that can have grave mental and physical health consequences, and people suffering from it need professional help. That is why we are here to provide legal assistance to those struggling with this health disorder.

If you or someone you know is suffering from orthorexia or any other eating disorder, and you are being denied benefits by your insurance, please contact Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation or use our online contact form. We understand, and we can help!