What is orthorexia?

About 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is the most well-known because it usually results in drastic weight loss. But a whole range of eating disorders are harder to diagnose.

Dr. Joanna Steinglass does research and treatment at Columbia Psychiatry. She says there are two shared features in every type of eating disorder: weight has taken too much of a role in the person's everyday life and eating habits change rapidly.

Experts are now looking into a new category of eating disorder called orthorexia, which is the obsession of maintaining the ideal diet. Individuals with orthorexia may claim to have a food allergy without a medical diagnosis or suffer extreme guilt if they eat something unhealthy. But orthorexia is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but lots of people do suffer from the symptoms associated with it.

Dr. Steinglass says people find themselves following an increasing number of rules on what they can and can't eat and get stuck in a pattern. That pattern is treated the same way any other eating disorder would be: with cognitive behavior therapy, lessons on nutrition, and -- in extreme cases -- inpatient therapy. Dr. Steinglass says changing your behaviors and getting well-nourished are the critical first steps.