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What is orthorexia?

Unlike more well known disorders such as anorexia and bulimia that are concerned with the quantity of food consumed, Orthorexia sufferers compulsively worry about the quality of their food. Like all eating disorders, the negative consequences facing the sufferer of orthorexia are both mental and physical.

Eating disorders are usually identified by Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia, but there is a third condition related to compulsive eating disorders that is now causing concern, due to the rise in reported cases. Eating disorder charities are reporting an increase in the number of people suffering from a serious psychological condition known as Ortherexia. Whereas Bulimia and Anorexia are typically concerned with the quantity of food that is eaten, Ortherexia is related to an obsession with the quality of food that is ingested.

Rise related to changing social habits

Just as Anorexia and Bulimia are regularly reported to be triggered by trends and fashions in the media that place pressure on individuals (especially young girls in their teens and early twenties) the sudden explosion in Othorexia cases could too be linked to changes in the way eating is perceived, advertised and educated in society. Every day in the newspapers there seems to be a report where research has found certain food types to cause the onset of illness such as cancer, heart disease, dementia or liver disease. Technology is enhanced and we can ensure foods that we are eating are hygienic and ensure we educate people as to the most appropriate way to eat raw food. Additives and such like make our foods look enticing and add taste and flavour, but as a society we are now very much aware of how this can have effects on health and behaviour. This has lead to a society being very aware of the types of food which are safe to eat. It is where this awareness becomes a compulsion and interferes with daily functioning that there is a problem.

Symptoms of Ortherexia

It needs to be remembered that individuals suffering from Otherexia go beyond just keeping away from foods that are deemed unhealthy. Orthorexics commonly have rigid rules around eating. Refusing to touch sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, gluten, yeast, soya, corn and dairy foods is just the start of their diet restrictions. Any foods that have come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives are also out. Symptoms of this illness is seen when individuals spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food, start having guilt or self-loathing feelings when they skip the diet, have feeling of total control when they keep to the diet, continually limit the number of foods they eat and experience a reduced quality of life or isolation because of it.

Typical long term effects of this condition is the patient eating becomes so stressed with keeping to their rigid diets personal relationships come under pressure and they become socially isolated. The ultimate problem with all the compulsive eating disorders is they become malnourished and put their lives in danger.

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