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To exhibit carborexia is to have an extreme dark green attitude towards environmental issues. This can show itself as excessive recycling and in other ways, but in particular it refers to an obsessive desire to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint. The term first appeared in an article in the New York Times on 17 October. The adjective is carborexic.

It’s the newest addition to the group of words based on anorexia, in full anorexia nervosa, the medical term for obsessive desire to lose weight. Other examples are bigorexia, a slang term for muscle dysmorphia, in which a false body image leads bodybuilders to work out too much; orthorexia, in which sufferers are obsessed with eating the right diet, in particular avoiding foods thought to be harmful to health; and tanorexia, a obsessive desire for a suntan. Others of lesser staying power that have appeared in recent years are yogarexia, excessive practice of yoga to lose weight, and drunkorexia, consuming alcohol in place of food as a way to keep thin.

The implication of these various forms is that -orexia is turning into a suffix that refers to an obsessive-compulsive attitude often related to body image. The chances are that carborexia will not survive, unlike bigorexia and orthorexia, which are already in major dictionaries. But who knows?

Certainly there is no recognized syndrome in mental health related to the compulsion toward living a green life. But Dr. Jack Hirschowitz, a psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and a professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said that certain carborexic behaviors might raise a red flag.

New York Times, 17 Oct. 2008

What do you think: Is carborexia a mental condition or a noble way of living?

US News & World Report, 21 Oct. 2008

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 8 Nov. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-car2.htm
Last modified: 8 November 2008.