Anxiety confirmation

I remember when the OCD first struck. Sure, there had been plenty of signs of anxiety and obsessionality before then, but on one December day of my ninth grade health class, my OCD came crashing down with a thunk. We were learning about AIDS, and I promptly freaked. Freaked is, perhaps, an understatement. I had an anxiety attack so intense that I ran to the bathroom, threw up (not intentionally, I was just so anxious that I couldn't keep my breakfast down), and washed my hands. Twice.

And that was the beginning of that.

I wasn't especially anxious about AIDS before this incident. I mean, I was a little bit, but nothing even remotely crippling. A little anxiety can be a good thing in terms of disease prevention. It might make you think twice before sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with a stranger. But this was the mid-90s, and the second round of AIDS hysteria was picking up. The second round was more a This-Can-Happen-To-YOU kind of moralizing, and news pieces on TV and in magazines only confirmed what I was already afraid of. It wasn't just a random 15-minute video in health class, these fears were all around, all the time. Every article, it seemed, only confirmed my nagging fears that people were simply germ-spreading machines. I was smart to be worried. I was right. Why weren't others so worried? What was wrong with them?

Granted, most people I knew weren't scrubbing their hands in Ajax and puking from anxiety, but still.

The last line in a Guardian UK piece called "Pure food obsession is latest eating disorder" got me thinking along this line. The article looked at the seeming rise in rates of orthorexia, or an obsession with healthy eating. The last quote of the article, by nutritionist Deanne Jade, was what stuck with me:

"And just look in the bookshops – all the diets that advise eating according to your blood type or metabolic rate. This is all grist for the mill to those looking for proof to confirm or encourage their anxieties around food."

This quote reminded me of the beginnings of my OCD: everywhere I turned, my fears were confirmed. I couldn't convince myself that this was not a smart thing to be worried about--or, at least, so worried about. I was aware that my behaviors were bizarre and my fears overwhelming, but when you see all of this hysteria all around you, it's kind of hard to realize that you have an actual brain disease.

Is this rise in orthorexia a bit more complex than this? Of course it is. There has been an increase in a wide variety of specialty foods that allow people to custom build their diets. For those with real dietary limitations, this is great. But it also has allowed those who have food anxieties to avoid anything anxiety-provoking. And as someone with plenty of food anxieties, I can attest that any magazine will confirm my fears of becoming fat or of eating too much or of not eating the "right" foods in the "right" quantities at the "right" times.

A little anxiety over food isn't necessarily bad. Roaches don't add flavor, and neither does Salmonella. But considering how much we are all fanning the flames, it's little wonder that the severe, clinical fears are only rising.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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