The role of dieting, psychopathological characteristics and maladaptive personality traits in Orthorexia Nervosa

BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Apr 22;22(1):290. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-03896-1.


Background: Pursuing a healthy diet is not a dysfunctional behavior, but dieting could be an important etiological factor for Orthorexia Nervosa (ON). The aim of this study was to investigate the role of diet in groups with high/low orthorexic tendencies. Moreover, some psychopathological characteristics associated with ON and maladaptive personality traits were investigated.

Methods: The sample consisted of three groups: two were on a diet and had high (HIGH-D; n = 52) or low (LOW-D; n = 41) orthorexic tendencies. The other was composed of people with high orthorexic tendencies not on a diet (HIGH; n = 40). Participants filled out self-report questionnaires to investigate orthorexic tendencies, eating disorders features, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, perfectionism, depressive/anxious symptomatology, and maladaptive personality traits.

Results: The HIGH-D group showed more orthorexic tendencies than the HIGH group. More maladaptive personality traits and anxiety symptoms have been highlighted in HIGH and HIGH-D groups. The HIGH group had more eating disorder characteristics than other groups. Only the HIGH-D group showed more depressive symptoms than the LOW-D group.

Conclusions: The features of HIGH and LOW-D groups suggest that diet alone could not explain ON, even if it could be a possible factor related to ON. Therefore, people with high orthorexic tendencies, psychopathological features, and maladaptive personality traits could be in a prodromic condition for disordered eating habits and deserve clinical attention.

Keywords: Dieting; Maladaptive personality traits; Orthorexia Nervosa; Psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Humans
  • Orthorexia Nervosa*
  • Personality
  • Psychopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires