Health beliefs, behaviors, and symptoms associated with orthorexia nervosa

  • Crystal D. OberleEmail author
  • Dalton L. Klare
  • Kevin C. Patyk
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Orthorexia Nervosa



This research explored whether symptoms of orthorexia nervosa (ON), a condition involving obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors regarding healthy eating, are associated with differences pertaining to use of nutritional supplements and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques, to health locus of control, and to symptoms of poor physical health.


An anonymous online survey assessing the variables above was completed by college students at a university in the southern United States: 47 in the ON symptoms group, 50 in the healthy-eating control group, and 83 in the normal-eating control group.


Compared to both control groups, the ON symptoms group reported greater supplement use and CAM participation, more reasons for these behaviors for the purpose of improving psychological health (i.e., to increase energy, enhance focus, and improve mood), and greater symptoms associated with poor physical health. None of the groups differed on internal or external health locus of control.


For those with ON, “healthy” eating behaviors are accompanied by other health behaviors that include supplement use and CAM activities. However, despite their goal of achieving perfect health, these individuals experience diminished physical health with symptoms that may be related to their severe dietary restrictions.

Level of evidence

Level V, descriptive cross-sectional study.


Orthorexia Supplement use Complementary and alternative medicine Health locus of control Health symptoms 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Texas State University Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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