Orthorexia is a proposed disorder that involves a pathological obsession with healthy eating. The condition has received much attention in popular media in recent years, but more empirical research is needed. Currently, orthorexia is an emerging construct with multiple proposed versions of diagnostic criteria, and there is confusion regarding the exact symptoms and pathology. This qualitative study aimed to explore the experiences of orthorexia from the perspective of recovered persons, as defined by Dunn and Bratman’s 2016 criteria (Eat Behav 21:11–17, 2016).
Eight participants from around the world were interviewed via Skype. These interviews were analysed using a descriptive and interpretive thematic analysis (Elliott and Timulak. A handbook of research methods for clinical and health psychology. Oxford University Press, London, pp 147–159, 2005). Informed consent was obtained from all participants.
Data analysis revealed four domains: (1) strong external influences; (2) psychological effects; (3) interpersonal functioning effects; and (4) classic eating disorder (ED) behaviours and processes. Some symptoms mirrored those seen in EDs and in obsessive compulsive disorder.
Orthorexia negatively impacted participants' physical, psychological, and social health. Additional research exploring valid and reliable screening instruments, body image, and psychological functioning would help to further understand this proposed disorder.
Level of evidence
Level V, qualitative interview study.
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This study did not receive any funding or grants.
Conflict of interest
Ms Lynn McGovern declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr Megan Gaffney declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr Timothy Trimble declares that he has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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McGovern, L., Gaffney, M. & Trimble, T. The experience of orthorexia from the perspective of recovered orthorexics. Eat Weight Disord 26, 1375–1388 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00928-1
- Diagnostic criteria