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Orthorexia: Newest Eating Disorder


Orthorexia: Newest Eating Disorder

By Cheryl Steinberg

Mostly, when you hear “eating disorder,” you think anorexia or bulimia. Now, more thought has been given to other types of eating disorders – on the other end of the scale, in which, instead of restricting food, sufferers binge on it and not necessarily to purge afterwards. Overeaters Anonymous bears witness to the need for others who struggle with food issues – food obsessions of a different kind.

With a spectrum of too much restriction (anorexia) to then binging then purging (bulimia) to then over-eating, not to mention a whole slew of eating disorders not otherwise specified (identified as ED-NOS) in the DSM 5, it can be hard for some people to get it “right” when it comes to eating healthy.

There’s a newly recognized eating disorder that’s becoming more talked about lately – as evidenced by the articles popping up on my Facebook feed: that of orthorexia nervosa. Just like any other eating disorder, orthorexia has to do with extreme, patterned eating but it’s distinct from these other, longer-established disorders in a major way.

Orthorexia: Newest Eating Disorder

Orthorexia nervosa is a “pathological fixation on eating only healthy or pure foods, or what an individual perceives as healthy or pure.” Orthorexia refers to a pattern of restricting one’s diet to eating only what they deem as ‘proper food.’

The term orthorexia nervosa was first coined in 1997 by Steven Bratman, M.D. to describe his own regimented and patterned approach to eating.

Although not yet a recognized mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and not listed in the DSM-5, it is still used as a diagnosis by some health care providers who have documented the damaging results of the condition that they have observed in some patients.

In fact, many health care workers and nutritionists have been expressing their concern at the number of people they’re treating who exhibit such behaviors as being obsessed with food purity and quality, so much so that they are restricting their diets in dangerous ways. There have been increased numbers of patients who present with an obsessive preoccupation with eating certain foods while avoiding a vast many other foods because they consider them to be unhealthy. As a result of this mentality, such patients enact strict food restrictions on themselves, only allowing themselves to eat what they consider to be “pure” foods.

How does orthorexia differ from anorexia?

It may be confusing at first to understand orthorexia as something separate from anorexia because both conditions are described by the main symptom/behavior which is extreme food restriction.

However, when someone is diagnosed with anorexia it’s because, among other signs, their main concern is with losing weight. Those struggling with anorexia are focused on numbers: the number on the scale, the number of calories they eat in a day; with an overall goal of being “thin.”

Someone who displays signs of orthorexia, on the other hand, is not so much focused on weight as much as they are obsessed with the idea of an extremely ‘pure’ diet. In a nutshell, someone with anorexia will restrict everything they eat – for the most part, whereas someone with orthorexia focuses more on the quality of the food items they allow themselves to eat.

What’s the difference between orthorexia and simply eating healthy?

Eating healthy and orthorexia are totally different. One is eating conscientiously and mindfully while the other is basically an extreme version of that, to the extent that it is no longer ‘eating healthy’ but is now a problem.

In cases of orthorexia nervosa, the person restricts their diet to an extreme extent. They may have started out choosing to eat and healthier diet with more whole foods but, it then takes off on an extreme bent.

For example, someone who is considered to be “health-conscious” may choose to cut out certain unhealthy or fattening foods such as candy, sugar, and certain fats like saturated fats. But, someone with orthorexia is likely to cut virtually all fat from their diet. And this is actually quite unhealthy, as there are good fats that are necessary to our diet in order to allow us to absorb all the nutrients from food. That’s because fat is necessary in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients as well as all of the antioxidants that are found in fruits and vegetables.

That is, someone who displays orthorexia patterned eating might eat what seems to be a very pure diet: salad with vegetables and fruits but, they’re not actually reaping any of the benefits from those foods because their bodies are physically incapable of absorbing the nutrients, which leads to malnourishment.

It’s understandable – and common – that people who choose to live a clean and sober lifestyle then tend to try to lead a healthy lifestyle as well, after years of neglecting their bodies and their health. Many people in recovery begin working out, meditating, eating right, and doing other things that will support their health and well-being. But, just as we as addicts have a tendency to go overboard with drugs, we do so with other things as well. That’s why it’s so important to avoid black and white thinking and to find balance. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder or eating disorder or other psychiatric disorder, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

 Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

A 32-year-old man was found dead in an Internet cafe in Taiwan after a marathon three-day gaming binge, making this the island’s second death of an online gamer this year.

According to Jennifer Wu, a police spokesperson from the local precinct, the man entered the cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, on January 6.

An employee at the café found him motionless and sprawled on a table at 10 a.m. on January 8. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead from cardiac failure.

“He has been unemployed for a long time, and internet cafes were the only place he could go to,” she said.

“His family said he would disappear for two to three days on end.”

It is not known exactly how long the man lay dead in the Internet cafe but police said his body had entered rigor mortis, meaning that it had already begun to stiffen – an indication that he must have been dead for at least several hours before being noticed.

Police further added that gamers in the café continued playing their online games as if nothing had happened, even when the police and paramedics arrived.

Gaming Addiction is a Matter of Life and Death

“The CCTV footage from the Internet cafe showed that he had a small struggle before he collapsed motionless,” said Wu.

A police statement added that the cold temperatures and over-exhaustion from the long hours spent playing games likely contributed to the man’s cardiac arrest.

According to the Taipei Times, the man was a “regular customer” who often played for consecutive days.

“When tired, he would sleep face down on the table or doze off slumped in his chair,” the staff member was quoted as saying.

“That is why we were not aware of his condition in the beginning.”

Video Game Addiction Has Affected Others

Marathon sessions of online gaming in Taiwan have resulted in other deaths recently, too.

Similarly, a 38-year-old man was also found dead at an Internet cafe in Taipei on January 1 after playing video games for five days straight.

And previously, back in 2012, the dead body of man went unnoticed for 10 hours by other gamers and staff. The victim in this case had also died while playing online games for a marathon session.

Addiction can involve behaviors not related to taking drugs or drinking excessively. Many people struggle with obsessions to compulsively do things that affect them negatively, whether you’re addicted to the internet, gaming, gambling, sex, eating, or any other behavior that is causing problems in your life, such as destroying relationships, your health, or interfering with your job, please call us at toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. This is someone who is trained and equipped to answer your questions. Often times, it’s someone who is in recovery from some form of addiction, themselves.  

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