Thematic Analysis of the Relationship between Orthorexia Nervosa and Instagram

By: Joanna Jones  

This paper focuses on the role of social media in relation to the Eating Disorder Orthorexia Nervosa (a pathological obsession with healthy eating with similar symptomology as Anorexia and Bulimia). The term Orthorexia is frequently posted on social media, especially Instagram in which #orthorexia currently has hundreds of thousands of public posts. Using thematic analysis to explore the relationship between ON and Instagram, I situate this disorder more widely within discussions of body image, virtual online communities, social media, and mental health issues. Having analysed the ‘most popular’ public posts on Instagram with the hashtag #orthorexia, preliminary findings suggest that Orthorexia on Instagram is closely linked with popular food trends such as ‘raw eating’ and ‘clean eating.’ It also appears to be heavily associated with exercise addictions. A multifaceted overriding theme of ‘regaining control’ is also identified: 1) regaining control from the disorder, 2) regaining control over the public health obesity epidemic, and, 3) regaining control over the falsities of marketing strategies about food in order to discover what is truly healthy and natural. Thus, my research suggests a link between expressions and representations of Orthorexia on Instagram, perhaps encouraging moral panics among those who identify with the hashtag Orthorexia.

Orthorexia; Social Media
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Joanna Jones

PhD Student, School of Media and Culture, University of Worcester, United Kingdom
United Kingdom