Mental Health Professionals are reporting an increasing prevalence of young persons developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders are condition such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating Disorder.
Like most psychiatric conditions, there is never one causative factor. Biological factors such as a positive family history of eating disorder, having someone else at home who has an eating disorder, pubertal physical changes triggering body image dissatisfaction are some examples.
Social media itself can also be a possible contributing factor with emphasis on physical appearance, pursuit of thinness, glorification of the slim and lean. With the advent of mobile phone apps, some of which enable counting of calories, tracking the energy expended on exercise, even recommend fat burning diets, it is little wonder that our younger tech-savvy population is picking up ways to lose weight and disordered eating behaviors quite easily these days.
Other possible contributory factors include low self-esteem, history of obesity, examination stress, peer influence and wanting to fit in or be popular amongst friends. Being teased or bullied may also be contributing factors.
Occasionally psychosocial stressors such as family stress, dissolution of a marriage, frequent quarrels between parents and sibling rivalry may also contribute to development of eating disorders.
Eating disorders are diagnosed based on signs, symptoms and eating habits. If your doctor suspects you have an eating disorder, he or she will likely perform an exam and request tests to help pinpoint a diagnosis. You may see both your primary care provider and a mental health professional for a diagnosis.
Assessments and tests generally include:
Treatment of psychiatric conditions often follows a bio-psycho-social model. Biological treatment refers to medication, which in the case of Anorexia Nervosa, is quite limited in use. However in Bulimia Nervosa, the option of medication can be considered.
Psychologists will use various psychotherapy techniques to address cognitive errors, improve one’s self esteem or enhance one’s motivation towards recovery.
Family therapy is also an integral mode of treatment, especially so for younger patients with Anorexia Nervosa. As eating disorder often affects not just the patient, but others in the family. This therapy works at addressing issues and enabling different members to support the patient in the journey of recovery.
A dietitian’s role will be in assessing the recommended caloric intake, working out food challenges, offering advice meal plans and methods to curb binge episodes.
The physiotherapist is vital in providing the perspective on what is excessive exercise and advising on the level of physical activity adequate for patients at different stages of recovery.
Occupational therapist has the role of helping patients with activity scheduling and reintegration back into their lives during the treatment process. Art Therapist in SGH also offers Art Therapy for patients receiving treatment.