Orthorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive behavior among college students in the United States

Christine B. Costa, Kholoud Hardan-Khalil


Background/Objective: Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is a disordered eating pattern and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety condition.  Although ON shares many similarities with OCD, their relationship remains unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of both ON behaviors and OCD behaviors and whether or not an association between ON behaviors and OCD behaviors exist among college/university students in the United States.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional, descriptive research design, a convenience sample of 270 college undergraduate students provided data using self-administered questionnaires: ORTO-15 to detect orthorexia behaviors and Obsessive-Compulsive Inventory-Revised (OCI-R) to detect obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Additionally, the participants completed a demographic questionnaire designed by the authors.  Chi square, Pearson’s correlation coefficient and analysis of variance evaluated the variables of interest using a significance level of .05.

Results: The prevalence rate for orthorexia nervosa behaviors was 37% and for obsessive-compulsive behaviors was 38.5%. There was a strong negative correlation (p < .001) between the scores of the ORTO-15 and the scores of the OCI-R. As orthorexia behaviors increased, obsessive-compulsive behaviors like-wise increased.

Conclusions: It was concluded that college/university students are a high-risk group for orthorexia nervosa and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Mental health professionals who encounter clients with orthorexic tendencies are encouraged to also screen for obsessive compulsive symptomology as a comorbid problem.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v9n2p67

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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