Orthorexia – a psychological disorder of the 21st century

 Orthorexia – a psychological disorder of the 21st century

Have you ever considered how many healthy diets have recently been developed by various nutritionists, dietitians, doctors and even self-development gurus?

Several decades ago, there were concerns about the harm of saturated fats, then there was time for critics of refined sugars. Not so long ago, nutritionists realised that gluten as well as lactose are harmful not only for people who have a diagnosed intolerance of these substances meanwhile many vegetarians switched to a popular vegan diet. According to other specialists, the only healthy diet is raw diet, however others claim it’s not enough and we should eat according to frutarianism. At the same time, some doctors started telling more and more about the benefits of the ketogenic diet which is an absolute opposite of these nutrition approaches.

When a healthy diet leads to an unhealthy mind

Taking into consideration all the nutritional recommendations available today, it is really difficult to understand what you really should do. While some experts are constantly talking about the health benefits of fermented milk products as well as fibre, others are strongly recommending not to consume these types of food.

On the one hand, meat is so crucial for appropriate development and maintenance of organs in our bodies. On the other hand, there are so many concerns about its possible impact on the increased level of “bad” cholesterol. May be we should consume fish instead of meat since it is a source of the most easily digestible proteins and, in addition to it, is packed with unsaturated fats? Unfortunately, we can’t consume the majority of the fish species since they are rather contaminated by heavy metals present in the water. Don’t forget about the herbicides and insecticides used for farming. Undeniably, this is only a part of risks that we can’t avoid if we decide to continue eating food!

As you can see, today, it is really difficult to find food of a high quality even if you have enough money for that. At the same time, the importance of staying fit and taking care of oneself is currently so promoted that we feel obliged to do everything to achieve the maximum health and beauty. While some people still manage to keep a healthy balance of their diet, others develop various food disorders including one that has been recently recognised by some psychiatrists. This modern disorder is known as orthorexia.

Orthorexia is somewhat similar to other food disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, however, the paradox of orthorexia is based on the mania of people to lead only the healthiest possible diet which leads to gradual resign of a large amount of nutritional products. As a result, people suffering from orthorexia develop deficiency in many crucial nutritional elements which can lead to serious health problems and even death.

How can you spot a person suffering from orthorexia?

In all likelihood you yourself or someone from your family or friends pays sufficient attention to the quality of food and there is nothing wrong about it. After all, our health directly depends on the products we are consuming, albeit this is not the only factor that affects our organisms. Yet, when this serious approach to one’s health becomes a disorder?

Orthorexia is still not an officially recognised disorder, that is why there is no generally accepted test for this mental condition. Still, you can easily notice that someone has an unhealthy approach to food.

First of all, people suffering from orthorexia spend at least three hours per day thinking about healthy food. They feel a need to plan all their meal beforehand, so it becomes a real ritual for them. In addition to it, the list of the products such people allow themselves to consume is rather modest and they are constantly finding more and more harmful products. Needless to say, these people can’t eat the food they used to enjoy a lot, as now it is regarded by them as harmful. For these reasons, you can hardly eat out with such a person, as he or she wouldn’t be able to control the quality of food.

In addition to eat, people suffering from orthorexia are keeping an eye at the food others are eating and, certainly, he or she finds this food downright dangerous. Because of that, they tend to criticise the diets of other people while feeling proud of their nutritional choices.

Whenever people with orthorexia have to break their own rules, they feel very bad about themselves, experiencing severe guilt or even disgust. As a result, they can make their diet even more harsh.

Usually, orthorexia starts as an innocent attempt to become healthier. Some people would like to improve their condition by leading a healthy lifestyle, others want to lose some weight or treat the symptoms of undiagnosed allergens. While some of them are able to reach their goals, for others a need to eat according a healthy diet becomes a real obsession.

If you know such a person, you should be aware of the fact he or she needs to receive help from a specialist. In this case, a visit to a psychiatrist won’t make any difference without a visit to a dietitian since only a nutritional expert is able to convince such person to change one’s diet.

Kate Martins

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