Health Anxiety: Are You Trying Too Hard to Be Healthy?

March 1, 2017 • Rehack Team


You’ve probably heard before that everything is good in moderation. You’ve also heard that there are exceptions to every rule. Balance is complex, which is why health anxiety is a thing.

For that reason, you might think your borderline obsession with maintaining a healthy lifestyle is A-OK. However, an all-consuming focus on eating a healthy diet is not at all healthy, according to experts.

In fact, the trend has a name: orthorexia. Despite the name, it’s not an officially recognized mental disorder, but it’s a trend large enough to earn recognition nonetheless. Not only do sufferers find themselves restricting their own diets, but they also feel serious health anxiety that forces them to stay on the straight and narrow.

If this sounds familiar, we implore you to read on and find out more signs that you or someone you love might be suffering from orthorexia:

1. You Need Control Over How Food Is Cooked

It started innocently enough, asking questions to waiters to find out just how your dinner would be cooked. Now, without control of exactly what goes onto your plate, you can’t stomach the idea of eating out. This is a tell-tale sign of orthorexia, as well as the fear that dishes might contain hidden salt, sugar, artificial colorings or flavors. They might also wash and rewash ingredients to remove unseen bacteria.

This is why many who have become overly obsessed with their healthy diets begin to cook for themselves and never eat out: It gives them control.

2. You Cut Yourself Off When You Cheat

It used to be that you would allow yourself a delicious, albeit high-calorie meal every once in a while to reward yourself for your dedication to a healthy lifestyle. Now, any slip-up feels like a complete failure. Some who suffer orthorexia feel serious health anxiety after they cheat and force themselves to restrict more items from their diet to make up for it.

Meanwhile, others will let one off-plan morsel derail everything and partake in an even unhealthier binge. This is a sign of a loss of control, but it’s not your fault. Because you’ve lost touch of how to eat normally and truly healthfully, these slip-ups will continue — and continue to make you upset unless you do something about it.

3. You Are Depressed

We’ve mentioned the fact that orthorexia often comes hand-in-hand with health anxiety. That’s because the disorder causes people to worry about every meal or every time there’s going to be food around. It’s a bit like obsessive-compulsive disorder, really. Along with that pressure, there’s the overall sense of low self-esteem, a condition that exacerbates stress. All of this equates to a poor state of mind that lends itself to depression: 85 percent of anxiety sufferers also have depression.

How to Get Better

Fortunately, there’s always a cure for an issue like this one. As cliché as it sounds, there’s no better time than right now to embark on your journey to better health.

If possible, begin to relax your standards. It can be a slow, drawn-out process, but start it. You can define some foods as being middle-ground between your overly obsessive lifestyle and a normal one and transition with those.

Other experts suggest experiencing your food again. Rather than just eating it, touch it, smell it and listen to it crunch. Fall in love with the experience of eating again instead of dreading it.

It will take time, there is no doubt about that. If you need help along the way, you can certainly find resources that will connect you with therapy, treatment programs and people willing to talk you through tough times.

The first step is the most important, and once you make it, you’ll be on your way to returning to a truly healthy lifestyle.