Let’s Stop Comparing Anorexia To Teeth-Whitening

Here’s a trend that needs to die a swift death: the inclination to slap “-orexic” at the end of a word to imply the over- or under-use of something. I.e., Liarexic. Drunkorexic. And the latest: Bleachorexic.

The Huffington Post reports on bleachorexia, calling it an “obsessive beauty habit.” Supposedly it pertains to people who bleach their teeth compulsively. Pretty simple concept: these are people who buy teeth-whitening products in abundance, get preoccupied with how white their teeth are, and go to the dentist frequently for treatments.

But here’s the breaking news about comparing teeth bleaching to anorexia, which is essentially what making up the word “bleachorexic” does. Anoroxia isn’t a habit. It’s a disease, and a deadly one at that. Categorizing it alongside made-up nonsense like “bleachorexic” perpetuates the widely-held notion that it’s just a diet gone wrong, something that can be remedied by simply eating a sandwich. It inadvertently treats eating disorders like a joke, when care and research for them are woefully underfunded, and when they have among the highest mortality rates of any are among the deadliest psychiatric illnesses out there.

Is your habit of bleaching your teeth going to kill you? Is it going to cause your liver or heart to fail? Is it going to cost you your health and your relationships?

Orly? It isn’t? Then let’s stop comparing it to something that will.

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    • Anonymous

      Thank you! I get so annoyed when people do this or when they do the “oh you’re going anorexic on us” bit. My friends now don’t realize that I struggled with this in high school (and those who have it know that the struggle never goes away) so when they make those jokes I take personal offense. Adding -orexia to the end of something is just as bad. I’m glad you brought attention to this!

    • Sam

      Thank you so much for saying this. My aunt died two weeks ago after struggling for over a decade with anorexia, and seeing something as (comparatively) harmless as over-bleaching your teeth being compared to a disease that destroys lives absolutely infuriates me. Anyone who makes up a term like “bleachorexia” obviously has never had any sort of experience with eating disorders or the many people who struggle with them.

    • Kristen

      Yes, thank you! In fact, in the “Liarexic” post you linked to earlier (it’s at the bottom of my screen now, actually), the author suggested that these terms are starting to border on cutesy. Which is essentially what you’re saying, but thank you for taking this point and going more in-depth. I think you put it perfectly when stressing that it’s not a habit, it’s a disease.

      I feel like in recent years, some progress has been made in terms of eating disorder awareness, and I worry that terms like these will erase all of it!

    • porkchop

      good point–what are your thoughts on chocoholism?

    • Eileen

      Yup, pretty much. I also get annoyed when my friends refer to themselves as “political junkies” or “news junkies,” like OH REALLY I’M SURE YOU ARE PHYSICALLY ADDICTED TO CSPAN. -orexia seems to be the go-to suffix (kind of like -gate for political scandals – don’t get me started on that one), and it really is a shame, considering, as you pointed out, that anorexia is a disease, not the cute habit of thin pretty girls that people seem to be implying it is.

    • Eileen

      Also – “drunkorexia”? Bwah? Isn’t that, like, alcoholism? Or alcohol abuse, depending?

      • MM

        I thought “drunkorexia” is when people stop eating to save calories for booze. So in that case the name is sort of fitting.

    • Zimmm

      I guess I’m having a hard time getting too worked up over this one as “orexic” does in fact mean appetite or hunger and so it’s not necessarily being used incorrectly. Except for drunkorexia of course…I do object to that one. It should be Dipsorexia.

    • Steve Robbins

      That’s a very stupid comparison of two things which are very different. Correcting this issue is such a best remedy. Using of teeth whitening doesn’t lead anorexia, that’s a very different idea.