Being a health nut could actually make you crazy

Many people are essentially obsessed with eating healthy – whether it be a vegan diet or cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar. November is “Good Nutrition Month,” so it’s a good time to be conscious, for sure. But could being so healthy actually make you mentally ill? Doctors and dietitians are now getting concerned about […]

Many people are essentially obsessed with eating healthy – whether it be a vegan diet or cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar. November is “Good Nutrition Month,” so it’s a good time to be conscious, for sure. But could being so healthy actually make you mentally ill?

Doctors and dietitians are now getting concerned about how far is too far when it comes to being “healthy.”

Some experts refer to the condition as orthorexia nervosa, a little-researched disorder that doesn’t have an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, considered the bible of psychiatric illnesses. Often, individuals with orthorexia will exhibit symptoms of recognized conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or end up losing unhealthy amounts of weight, similar to someone with anorexia.

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Ryan Moroze, a psychiatry fellow at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and senior author of a new study examining this proposed disorder understands that there isn’t enough research done to make this official, but he believes it’s definitely worth exploring. Thomas Dunn, a psychologist and psychology professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., and a co-author of the article, agrees.

“There are people who become malnourished, not because they’re restricting how much they eat, it’s what they’re choosing to eat,” said Dunn. “It’s not that they’re doing it to get thin, they’re doing it to get healthy. It’s just sort of a mind-set where it gets taken to an extreme like what we see with other kinds of mental illness.”

Orthorexia is thought to start with a simple desire to eat healthy, but it develops into anxiety about what to eat and when to eat it – so much so that it becomes an actually destructive behavior.

But Orthorexia is difficult to diagnose because, unlike other eating disorders, it doesn’t necessarily imply that a person would be underweight. A major symptom could be as simple as someone decreasing their social engagement because they don’t want to eat out. Sometimes it does get to the point of obvious malnutrition, though.

Jordan Younger, 24, of Los Angeles, created an Instagram blog last year documenting her plant-based vegan diet. She admits, it went overboard.

“I would wake up in a panic thinking, ‘What am I going to eat today?’ ” said Younger. “I would go to a juice place or Whole Foods or a natural grocery store and would spend so much time in there looking at everything trying to plan out the whole day. It just began to take over my mind in a way that I started to see was unhealthy.”

Younger, after losing too much weight and getting sick, eventually got help and has recovered. She only avoids processed foods.

As much as diabetes and obesity are major concerns in our country, this other aspect shines a light on the opposite end of the spectrum.

[Photo from flickr user John Watson]