A new study to examine the factors that cause orthorexia has begun at Swinburne.
Orthorexia is a condition that involves an unhealthy obsession with eating foods one believes to be healthy resulting in an ever increasing restrictive diet.
“Where individuals with anorexia or bulimia are concerned with their weight or the calorie content of their meals, those with orthorexia obsess over the ‘healthiness of their food’,” Dr Simon Knowles, of Swinburne’s Brain and Psychological Sciences Centre, says.
The obsession becomes unhealthy when individuals begin to experience significant physical, psychological and social issues.
Dr Knowles is leading the study which aims to explore the psychological and demographic factors that influence orthorexia and the severity of its symptoms.
In recent years instances of orthorexia have anecdotally increased. This may in part due to the rise of clean eating and other fad diets being shared on social media explains Dr Knowles.
“Many have related this increase to the ‘fitspiration’ or ‘fitspo’ trend that has emerged on social media in recent years, particularly on Instagram and Facebook.
“A combination of ‘fit’ and ‘inspiration’, ‘fitspo’ involves the spread of images and other content related to fitness or health.”
The study is the first to look at how social anxiety, attitudes, thinking patterns and psychological wellbeing relate to orthorexia.
Current research suggests that dietetics/nutrition students, medical students, healthcare professionals, performance artists and fitness participants are at greater risk of orthorexia.
“The results of this study will tell us more about the characteristics of those with orthorexic tendencies, which will bring us closer to understanding the causes of the condition.”
Interested applicants can apply to participate in the study.
If you believe you are struggling with an eating disorder you can contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673, Monday to Friday from 8am to 9pm.