Orthorexia and Anorexia – Comparison and Correlation, Part III

Woman with anorexia

The first two parts of this series have shown that the behavioral foundations and consequences of Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) and Anorexia Nervosa (AN) make them formidable disorders to treat.

Part III of this series moves past this gloom to focus on what interventions and treatments are most effective in overcoming these disorders.


Only AN is officially recognized as an ED in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM). In fact, it was the first eating disorder to be added [1].

As for ON, the mental health field is still debating whether it “should be considered a disorder, a behavioral addiction, or an extreme dietary habit [2].

Despite this, a recent survey has shown that the majority of ED professionals see ON as a genuine syndrome in need of further research and awareness [3].


A form of psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has proven to be effective in treating all kinds of eating disorders. This therapy is based on the idea that one’s thoughts dictate their behaviors.

In treatment, CBT is used to pinpoint those thoughts that maintain the eating disorder pathology and to process and alter these thought-processes, therefore changing the resulting behaviors.

A study that used an enhanced form of CBT, CBT-E, to treat outpatients with AN found that it can be used to treat approximately 60% of these individuals and that, of this 60%, 60% showed a positive outcome [4].

CBT has also shown positive results with ON, likely because it has such success when treating individuals with OCD.

Clinicians must consider the distinctions of the disorder even when using the same treatment method. Individuals with AN are predominantly motivated by a fear of weight gain whereas those with ON are motivated by a desire to be healthy, pure, and natural.

These motivations must be considered as they are the thoughts that make-up the disordered behaviors.

The Bottom Line

This series has explored ON and AN from the ground-up, examining its foundations, prevalence, health consequences, and the treatment methods that are effective in fighting it.

Woman sitting by a rock

So, what’s the point? The most important takeaway from this is that these disorders are similar, but different, just as every individual experience with eating disorders is.

Whether the behaviors, diagnosis, and treatment are the same, they will never be mirror images of one another.

Clinicians need to remember this when helping individuals toward recovery, noting that sometimes there is no one diagnosis and that each person displays their disorder, fights it, and overcomes it in their own way.

Individuals struggling should note that it isn’t necessary to fall neatly into one category or diagnosis to pursue treatment. Whether you fit perfectly into a diagnosis doesn’t matter, if you feel you’re in trouble and need help, let your courage push you to seek it out.

Those in treatment and recovery can take-away that they are not alone. Whether fighting the more common AN or, the newer ON, you are not alone in your fight for recovery or your pursuit to find the best way to achieve it.

No matter the differences between your experience with food, weight, and body size, you are brave enough to ask for help and strong enough to find recovery.

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] Dell’Osso, L. et al. (2016). Historical evolution of the concept of anorexia nervosa and relationships with orthorexia nervosa, autism, and obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 12, 1651-1660.
[2] Haman, L. et al. (2015). Orthorexia nervosa: An integrative literature review of lifestyle syndrome. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 10.
[3] Bundros, J. et al. (2016). Prevalence of orthorexia nervosa among college students based on Bratman’s test and associated tendencies. Appetite, 101, 86-94.
[4] Murphy, R. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for eating disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33:3, 611-627.

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 15, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com