Orthorexia & Anorexia – Comparison and Correlation, Part II

Woman struggling with an eating disorder

Part I of this series made it clear that, while they may share similar properties, Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) and Anorexia Nervosa (AN) are very different disorders.

Jump into Part II to learn how these disorders impact the population as well as the physical, and emotional risks that they pose.


With the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, the prevalence of AN cannot be denied. 1% of American women and .3% of American men will suffer from anorexia in their lifetime [1].

The prevalence of ON is harder to track, as the disorder is relatively new and no standardized tool currently exists to diagnose it.

Further, ON is not an official DSM diagnosis. Therefore, individuals may not seek out treatment for it and those that do simply fall under the category of Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED, previously known as EDNOS).

One study examined the prevalence of ON among women in treatment for an ED and found that ON symptoms are “highly prevalent in patients with anorexia and bulimia [2].”

Another found the average prevalence of ON symptoms to be approximately 6.9% for the general population and 35-57.8% for those considered “high-risk (dieticians, nutrition students, and other healthcare professionals) [Dell].


Imagine how your car would respond if you stopped putting in gas. It would quit running entirely, and that is, primarily what slowly happens to the body when it is deprived of nourishment.

Woman with anorexia

AN wreaks havoc on the body, causing severe health consequences starting with feelings of lethargy and irritability to hair thinning/loss, absence, or cessation, or menstrual cycle, consistently feeling cold, growing soft thin hair on the face and body, and, eventually, heart problems and potential death.

4% of individuals that struggle with AN will die from complications related to the disease [3].

AN causes mental as well as physical harm, resulting in 1 of 5 AN deaths being caused by suicide [4].

The health consequences caused by ON are similar to those with AN.

Those with ON often restrict their food intake stringently in an effort to maintain a healthy, pure, and natural diet. These strict food rules result in severe weight loss and malnutrition.

An individual with ON “may lose enough weight to give (him or) her a body mass index consistent with someone with anorexia [5].”

In rare cases, the severe malnutrition and weight loss that ON can cause could result in cardiac complications or even death.

Both disorders have social consequences, as individuals often become isolated and withdrawn, avoiding social functions and detaching from family and friends.

Read Part III of this blog series to learn more.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] NIMH (2017). Eating Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved on 27 November from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/statistics-studies.
[2] Segura-Garcia, C. et al. (2015). The prevalence of orthorexia nervosa among eating disorder patients after treatment. Eating and Weight Disorders, 20:2, 161-166.
[3] (2017). Eating disorder statistics and research. Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved on 27 November 2017 from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/statistics-studies.
[4] (2017). Eating disorder statistics. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (ANAD). Retrieved on 27 November from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
[5] 2017. Orthorexia symptoms and effects. Timberline Knolls. Retrieved on 27 November 2017 from https://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/orthorexia/signs-effects/.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on January 14, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com