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Holistorexia: How an 'obsession with wellness' is making some people ill

Hour-long meditations, ever-changing diet fads and an aversion to medical professionals - these c...
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.23 30 Jun 2021


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Holistorexia: How an 'obsessio...

Holistorexia: How an 'obsession with wellness' is making some people ill

Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

10.23 30 Jun 2021


Share this article


Hour-long meditations, ever-changing diet fads and an aversion to medical professionals - these could all be signs of so-called 'holistorexia'.

There’s a warning that some people can get so obsessed with wellness and “all things health” that it can actually make them ill.

It can involve ‘alternative’ therapies and practices that can prove time-consuming, expensive and even dangerous for those who take or follow them.

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Dietician Orla Walsh spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about what she and others have been seeing in their clinics.

Holistorexia: How an 'obsession with wellness' is making some people ill

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She explained: “Holistorexia is a word used to describe people who have in the pursuit of wellness they’ve become ill… it’s an obsession with all things health. It’s not just food… it’s also every part of their lifestyle.

“People might be obsessed with how many steps they’re getting, or their sleep score on a trackable watch.

“If a part of this is the prescription of herbs and non-medical supplements… there’s no guarantee it won’t do harm. Unfortunately, we have a lot of people on liver wards across the country who’ve gotten sick from taking supplements that haven’t been safe, but people presumed they were because they were dubbed ‘natural’.”

It's similar to orthorexia - a condition involving an obsession with dietary purity - although it expands beyond food to other types of wellness.

Orla said one of the main concerns is that people will choose alternative treatments instead of traditional medicines that they might really need.

She explained: “There are a lot of people getting sick pursuing wellness, and a lot of people turning their back on modern medicine for these therapies that have no evidence behind them - and that’s incredibly dangerous”.

There will always be people who may be desperate for alternatives when modern medicine isn't working for them the way they hoped it would.

However, she said it’s the people “who call themselves practitioners that are taking advantage of that desperation” that really bothers her.

She said sometimes no medical cure for ailments, and that needs to be accepted - adding that it doesn't mean something else has to come in and fill the gap.

She said it is possible to be getting alternative medicine alongside modern medicine, but it's vital to tell your doctor if you are.

Main image: File photo. Picture by cenczi from Pixabay

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