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What are people’s experiences of orthorexia nervosa? A qualitative study of online blogs.

Greville-Harris, M., Smithson, J. and Karl, A., 2020. What are people’s experiences of orthorexia nervosa? A qualitative study of online blogs. Eating and Weight Disorders: studies on anorexia, bulimia and obesity, 25, 1693-1702.

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DOI: 10.1007/s40519-019-00809-2


Purpose Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is a proposed new eating disorder, used to describe a pathological obsession with healthy or ‘clean’ eating. Although some quantitative research has been carried out in ON, very little qualitative work has been published to date to explore individual experiences of ON. Thus, this study aimed to explore individuals’ personal experiences of ON, as described in online blogs. Methods Fifteen women bloggers, who self-identified as having ON, consented for their blog entries to be analysed in this study. Forty pre-existing blog entries describing the first-person experiences of ON were analysed using thematic analysis. Results Three key themes were discussed: (1) initial motivations for a healthier lifestyle, (2) fuelling the problem—social influences, and: (3) when healthy becomes unhealthy. Bloggers described the role of social messages, comparison with others around ideas of ‘healthiness’, as well as confusion around diagnosis as factors influencing their disordered eating. They also described the exacerbating impact of perfectionism and perceived control, as well as a confirmatory cycle of fear and avoidance. For some bloggers, increased physical symptoms in response to feared foods provided confirmation for these fears, further exacerbating food avoidance. Conclusion Whilst the debate around the diagnosis of ON continues, these bloggers’ accounts suggest that ON is experienced as a legitimate, debilitating disorder, worthy of clinical and research investigation. This study provides evidence of some of the potential triggers and maintaining factors for this disordered eating style.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Orthorexia Nervosa; Clean Eating; Eating Disorder; Qualitative Research; Thematic Analysis; Blogs
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:33070
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:22 Nov 2019 16:17
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:18


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