Monthly Archives - May 2018

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Social Media and Orthorexia

Social media’s pervasiveness throughout society is well-established. Individuals from a variety of backgrounds read and actively use some type of social media channel. The mass adoption of this new communication form is starting to generate questions and concerns. One of these questions ask as to whether the use of social media makes people more susceptible to developing an eating disorder? A new study suggests that specific social media channels might actually lead to unhealthy obsessions with healthy eating.

Incidents of depression have been linked to heavy social media use. For example, there is an increasing amount of evidence that connects the amount of time spent on Facebook with the occurrence of depression. Other studies have also suggested that the extensive use of social media by young adults has a negative impact on body image, depression, social comparison, and disordered eating. Beyond these negatives, social media sites that offer the newest superfood or latest diet fad may be just as damaging. Studies are beginning to see a correlation between disordered eating – particularly orthorexia, or an obsession with eating healthy foods that can lead to unhealthy consequences like nutrient deficiencies, social isolation and anxiety.

Although not formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, awareness about orthorexia is on the rise. Being concerned with the nutritional quality of the food is not a problem and is actually a good habit to develop. However, individuals with orthorexia become so fixated on what is considered healthy eating that they actually start to damage their own well-being. Studies have shown that many individuals with orthorexia also have obsessive-compulsive disorder. High orthorexia nervosa prevalence has been found in populations who take an active interest in their health and body and is frequently comorbid with anorexia nervosa. In particular, there seems to be a link between Instagram users and signs of orthorexia symptoms.

In 2017, a study in Eating and Weight Disorders found that out of the population studied, 49 percent of people who followed health food accounts on Instagram had symptoms of orthorexia. By contrast, less than 1 percent of the general population has the “condition,” which, by the way, isn’t an official diagnosis or classified eating disorder. The correlation between Instagram users and the increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa is surprising. Especially, due to the fact that higher Instagram use was associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia, but no other social media channels had this effect. Additional analysis indicated that Twitter showed a small positive association with orthorexia symptoms. Other features such as Body mass index (BMI) and age had no association with orthorexia. As a reminder, the prevalence of orthorexia nervosa among the study population was 49 percent, which is substantially higher than the general population which is less than 1 percent.

Understandably, people use social media to discover healthy eating tips or to stay accountable to a fitness plan. But the pursuit of nutritious eating can become an unhealthy preoccupation. The pursuit of the perfect diet can lead to self-punishment and interfere with social activities. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors do not discriminate; they can affect women, men, girls and boys. For some people, especially women, healthy eating becomes practically synonymous with deprivation. This means that the typical warning signs for eating disorders, distressing thoughts, compulsive behaviors and self-created rules around food, often go unnoticed or are even praised. This is despite the fact that restrictive diets are sometimes precursors to clinical eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), food inflexibility can lead to guilt or self-loathing if a “bad” food is consumed, as well as anxiety about food planning and isolation from social events with food and drinks.

The signs of orthorexia include compulsively checking nutrition labels, an inability to eat any food that is not designated pure, obsessively following healthy lifestyle bloggers or social media figures, and showing an unusual interest in what kind of food others are eating. Naturally, people can read nutrition labels and follow fitness experts on Instagram without being orthorexic. But, when the action becomes compulsive and obsessive, this may indicate something beyond following a healthy food plan is occurring. Does the individual feel required to check labels, perhaps even multiple times, even though they have purchased this item in the past and already know the nutritional content? When eating food, does the person feel anxious about eating in general? These are perhaps symptoms of an eating disorder like orthorexia. If untreated, orthorexia can lead to anorexia nervosa, since eating disorders are rooted in compulsivity and obsession surrounding food. According to NEDA, orthorexia is characterized by being consumed with good vs. bad or healthy vs. unhealthy food, while anorexia is characterized by obsessive caloric restriction and weight loss.

Orthorexia is not yet officially recognized by the DSM-5. However, Healthcare practitioners skilled at recognizing eating disorders will know the signs of orthorexia and can connect patients with the appropriate therapists and medical doctors. Doctors and therapists who specialize in eating disorders and mental health, such as those at the River Centre Clinic (RCC) in Ohio, are aware of orthorexia’s prevalence and risks. For additional questions about this topic or other behavioral health issues – please contact us.

 

Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26)

The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

 

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Eating disorders: From Pop Stars to Everyday People

From famous entertainers to the average person on the street, eating disorders are the silent battle that many people fight alone. Recently, pop stars like Demi Lovato and Kesha have both disclosed their struggles with eating disorders. Lovato told Insider that she is open about the challenges she faces with weight control and maintaining a positive body image. In a recent article in Cosmopolitan, Kesha shared a similar story but spoke of her success with overcoming body issues. However, there are numerous other people who do not have the spotlight of a pop star to share their pain and triumphs. They are not as well-known, but their everyday struggles with eating disorders are just as real.

Currently, there are over 30 million people who suffer from some type of eating disorder. There are still stigmas around mental illness, and this is true for eating disorders. Whether in Michigan, Iowa, or Ohio; the stories are very similar. These are stories of individuals confronting the pain of this affliction. In a story from Michigan, one woman reflects back on high school and remembers feeling proud that she “hadn’t eaten anything that day.” Eventually, she realized that something had to change. A mother in Iowa shares a similar story about her battles with and recovering from anorexia. “Eating disorders are a lot about control, and there was a lot in my life that was out of control. This was something I could control. And I grew up feeling like I wasn’t good enough or really worthy.”

In Ohio, an anorexia survivor has even created a short film that documents the doubt and isolation that is part of this mental illness. In this instance, the individual who has struggled with anorexia is a male, even though the disease is mistakenly thought of as a women’s disorder. He remembers thinking that “I could never tell people what I was going through because they never would believe me, or maybe it wasn’t even real.” His short film is intended to raise awareness and remind people that they are not alone and help is available. Recovery is possible. On a side note, males make up about 25 percent of eating disorder diagnoses.

Across the nation, eating disorders plague a wide variety of people. Yet, treatment options are available that can bring hope to those who are suffering in silence. For additional information, or if you have questions about eating disorders and recovery solutions, please contact the staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC). With decades of experience, their Eating Disorders Programs provide a full range of treatment options for adolescents and adults with a primary diagnosis of an eating disorder. The levels of care provided at the RCC are designed to meet the needs of most patients with eating disorders, but it is important to note that treatment is individualized for each case. We follow a well-established therapy model for treating eating disorders that integrates individual, group, and family therapy. The River Centre Clinic is located in a modern, spacious and tranquil setting in Sylvania, Ohio.

Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26)

The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

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