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Orthorexia Nervosa: the “Other” Eating Disorder

Orthorexia Nervosa: the “Other” Eating Disorder

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND:

Orthorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by the obsession with eating only healthy food. Although it is not an issue to be aware and cautious of the nutritional content in food, people with orthorexia become so fixated with proper eating that it damages their wellbeing. In contrast to other eating disorders, sufferers of orthorexia are more concerned with healthy eating than being thin. Orthorexia is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders because the diagnostic criteria for the disease has not been agreed upon and some of the symptoms lineup with those of anorexia. Due to the lack of research on the illness, it is unknown whether it is a stand-alone eating disorder, a form of an existing eating disorder, or a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is also unknown how many people, precisely, are affected by orthorexia.


GOALS:

    1. Educate peers about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
    2. Reduce stigma relating to eating disorders.
    3. Explain prevalence of Orthorexia Nervosa.

THE CHALLENGE:

Since there is a lack of information on orthorexia nervosa, many people may be suffering and not really know why. The fixation on eating healthy is very evident across the globe, especially in America, consisting of thousands of diets and other healthy regimens designed to lose weight and improve health. Dieting has become somewhat of a fad, and because of this, orthorexia has been on the rise. Many people know nothing about the disease, so with an increase in education and advocacy, hopefully more treatments will be found and it will be added to the DSM. There is also a current debate on the validity of orthorexia. Some people believe that it is not an actual disorder. This belief increases the stigma associated with it.  


Image result for orthorexia nervosaImage result for orthorexia


FACTS:

Causes: Eating disorders, in many cases, occur with other disorders such as anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol and drug abuse problems. There is also evidence that heredity may play a role in the development of eating disorders in certain people, however, these disorders also impact people with no prior family history.

Symptoms:

      1. Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
      2. An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
      3. Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
      4. An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
      5. Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating
      6. Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events
      7. Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
      8. Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
      9. Body image concerns may or may not be present

Treatment: There are currently no treatment options specifically designed to treat those with orthorexia, so in most cases, they are treated as anorexia and/or obsessive compulsive disorder patients. Therefore, treatment includes psychotherapy to increase the variety of foods eaten and exposure to anxiety provoking foods.



SURVEY RESULTS:

I conducted a student survey and collected the answers of 130 of my peers. I started by asking what people thought they knew about eating disorders in general. I wanted to be able to gage what the general knowledge on this specific branch of mental illness was at my school. The results show that majority feel like they know the basics of eating disorders, but no one feels as though they know nothing. My next question asked people to name the first eating disorder they thought of. Not surprisingly, most people thought of anorexia first, followed by bulimia. I was surprised to see that two people wrote down Pica, however, I suspect these students also fell under the “total expert” category on the first question. My final question, in an effort to keep the survey short so I could get the most answers, asked if people knew about orthorexia. Almost everyone had never heard of it, and a few people knew I little bit. I took this survey once to ensure it was running properly, so I am the one “total expert”. I have done a lot of research on how little is known on the disease, so I wanted to gage it for myself. My results match what I found in my research, and I hope that those who took my survey felt compelled to do some of their own research on orthorexia.


WHAT’S NEXT?

Now that you are informed on orthorexia nervosa, be an advocate. Educate others on the disorder so they can become informed too! So little is known about orthorexia that you can make a HUGE impact by spreading information. Help de-stigmatize eating disorders.

I will continue to spread awareness and educate my community on orthorexia through presentations and visual representations. If you would like to get involved, please spread the word about orthorexia.

Please take this survey once you have finished reading and watching: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D9PMKFQ


SOURCES CITED:

APA members. Exception, www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/apa-blog/2016/06/orthorexia-can-healthy-eating-become-unhealthyhttp://www.orthorexia.com/.

Brytek-Matera, Anna. Orthorexia Nervosa–an Eating Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or Disturbed Eating Habit? Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 2012, www.archivespp.pl/uploads/images/2012_14_1/BrytekMatera55__APP1_2012.pdf.

“Orthorexia.” National Eating Disorders Association, 22 Feb. 2018, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/other/orthorexia.

Zamora, M.L. Catalina. “Othorexia Nervosa. A New Behavior Disorder?” pp. 1–3., xn--essstrungen-aargau-h3b.ch/media/archive1/fachpersonen/diagnostik/differentialdiagnostik/Orthorexia_NewEatingDisorder.pdf.

 

 

 

 

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COMMENTS: 13
  1. April 26, 2018 by Young.Kim

    I think you did an amazing job raising awareness about a topic that frankly, I was not aware about prior to reading this. I feel as if preconceptions are existent for everything, in this case being eating disorders. I am excited to share this out to my classmates, so they can get educated as well.

  2. April 27, 2018 by Kate M

    Hey Abigail! I am very impressed with your project. I would have considered myself relatively knowledgeable about eating disorders, but I did not know anything about orthorexia before reading your site. Your project is very informative and I think the videos you chose were very engaging and helped me as a viewer to understand the real implications of this eating disorder. What role do you think the media has in the prevalence of this disease in our society?

    • April 30, 2018 by Abigail.Kelley

      I’m so glad you feel like you learned something!! I think that the media has definitely contributed to the increase in orthorexia because there is more pressure than ever to be perfect. I also think that with the increase of media, dieting has become kind of a fad and there are a lot of dangerous diets that may provoke this disease. However, I also hope that the increase in media will cause more people to become more aware of this disease and hopefully there won’t be stigma surrounding it.

  3. April 27, 2018 by Shealyn.Kennedy

    I didn’t know that this was a type of disorder prior to your project. Being obsessed with eating healthy is so common and idolized now a days, especially with veganism. It has gotten to a point of being trendy. I knew that this was an issue to be obsesses with one’s diet, but after your presentation it really brought to my attention that this is a very real issue and needs to be solved. I’m now aware of this disorder and I’m glad that I clicked on your presentation!

  4. April 27, 2018 by Sasha.Zitter

    Wow, great job! This is an eating disorder I didn’t know about, and I am really glad you are raising awareness. It’s really important.

  5. April 27, 2018 by Nhat Minh Nguyen

    Hey Abigail, I found this to be very interesting. Its kind of ironic how trying to be healthy is in a sense unhealthy. Like others, I didn’t know that this was an issue. I agree with the point you made about eating healthy has recently become a fad, and due to this trend, I think its important that more people are made aware of this eating disorder.

  6. April 27, 2018 by Kelsey.Watkins

    What a great topic. I have heard of people who eat too healthily and work out too much, but I had no idea that it had a name. This is probably a condition that is easily overlooked because from the outside it could look like someone is just trying to be “healthy” and behaviors like eating “right” and working out considered good, but in reality that person is hurting themselves. I wonder why this isn’t taken as seriously as other eating disorders like anorexia, it seems just as important.

  7. April 27, 2018 by Aichatou Diaw

    I love how your website is aesthetically pleasing to look at. I love the two videos in your website and how you didn’t just talk about the basics of eating disorders, but went deep into different types or eating disorders not everybody knows about. Nice job!

  8. April 29, 2018 by Lindsey

    Hi Abigail! I think that this is such a cool topic because I have heard of Orthorexia but I never fully understood it until now. I think that you did a great job breaking up the information into manageable parts so that I (and other viewers) could really understand this complex disorder. I didn’t know that Orthorexia wasn’t recognized in the DSM-5 and I think that is interesting and it shows how difficult it is to fully understand all of the aspects of a disorder and separate one disorder from another. Thank you for sharing this it was really interesting especially since there are so many people trying to fit and healthy with all of the societal pressures to be thin; it is important to know that dieting can lead to a lot of problems.

  9. April 29, 2018 by Crawford Asman

    Hey Abigail, I really liked your project as I, like many others, did not know what orthorexia nervosa was. I think that this project is going to be very helpful for others to learn that there are more than the general eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia and will help raise awareness regarding the disease. Great project overall visually as well.

  10. April 29, 2018 by Eden Aharoni

    Before even reading the project, I was really excited to learn about this eating disorder. I didn’t even know it existed! I really liked the video that you put in the project with the girl speaking about her own story with Orthorexia. I also thought that the image you placed in your project of the nutritional value of a celery stalk was fascinating. You annotated hte nutritional information in a way that I believe was intended to represent how someone with orthorexia would be looking at the food/nutritional content when choosing whether or not they are going to eat it. I thought that the survey of how much your peers know about eating disorders was very informative. I actually was intrigued by it and looked up what PICA was. Through your project I learned that I know so much less about eating disorders than I thought I did. I participated in your survey monkey and realized that I learned so much from just this presentation (since your survey monkey acted as a sort of WHAT DID YOU LEARN quiz. I feel very motivated and passionate about this issue and will really look to help you in raising awareness.

    • April 30, 2018 by Abigail.Kelley

      Thank you so much!! I’m really happy to see that my project has made an impact!

  11. May 01, 2018 by Isabelle.Franz

    I am super glad that someone did a project on this. I think this is an eating disorder that not many people of aware of, as it can sometimes not be portrayed as “an issue”. One of my friends struggled with this particular eating disorder and I was able to gain more knowledge on it through this. I think is is extremely important to educate people on this more rare and lessen known mental disorder and eating disorder. I think your videos and infographic were effective in informing your audience on the issue.

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