Hit by anorexia? Support group in Dubai offers help

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Hit by anorexia? Support group in Dubai offers help’.: After watching her sister suffer from an eating disorder for 20 long years and not being able to do anything about it, Katja Geiser, thought it was high time she shared her feelings as a family to help others who were in the same spot as her.

The Swiss national, resident in Dubai for three years, has launched a UAE support group for families after seeing her sister go through anorexia nervosa for 20 years. “I could see her and do nothing about it,” Katja said while speaking to Khaleej Times.

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Hit by anorexia? Support group in Dubai offers help

 

Asma Ali Zain
Asma Ali Zain

Approximately 50 per cent of those with anorexia nervosa make a full recovery.

 

After watching her sister suffer from an eating disorder for 20 long years and not being able to do anything about it, Katja Geiser, thought it was high time she shared her feelings as a family to help others who were in the same spot as her.

The Swiss national, resident in Dubai for three years, has launched a UAE support group for families after seeing her sister go through anorexia nervosa for 20 years. “I could see her and do nothing about it,” Katja said while speaking to Khaleej Times.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, up to 70 million people suffer from eating disorders worldwide.

“For as long as I can remember I knew my sister had issues with food, but it was only recently that I was able to accept she’s anorexic and allow myself to see her condition for what it is,” she said.

She also said that her sister did not understand her condition. “I am very close to my sister but it was difficult to tell her what was going on,” said Katja.

“Over the years, the situation has had a profound impact on our family in so many different ways and my parents and I have all struggled with emotions we’ve found difficult to deal with. One of the worst things is feeling powerless to help someone you love and acknowledging that the person suffering needs to help themselves,” she added.

“My sister has faced an incredibly hard and painful journey herself and her story as a sufferer is very different from ours as a family. That’s what led me to create a space where families could share their stories and seek support from each other.”

The support group is being launched in Dubai, to help the families of people who suffer from anorexia nervosa and associated eating disorders.

The free support group is being held at the German Neuroscience Center in Jumeirah Lake Towers every six weeks, with the first session taking place on April 30 from 7 pm to 8 pm.

Selma Yanik, psychologist at the German Neuroscience Centre explains: “Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, play out in extremely complex ways and watching a loved one suffer is emotionally devastating for the family and friends. Just as the sufferer needs to seek help, those close to them also need support and advice. A group like this provides somewhere safe and informal to address their feelings and share experiences with others who understand.”

What is anorexia nervosa?

Dr Nazia Salam, Family Medicine Consultant at Health Shield Medical Centre, explains what anorexia is:

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder characterised by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with their lives.

Is it true that only women are anorexic?

Anorexia nervosa affects women more than men (ratio 10:1). However, men are more likely to be under-diagnosed, misdiagnosed and under-referred.

What causes this behaviour?

The exact cause of anorexia is unknown. As with many diseases, it’s probably a combination of biological, developmental, psychological and sociocultural factors.

How can it be controlled?

If you’re over 18, you should be offered a type of talking therapy to help you manage your feelings about food and eating so you are able to eat enough to be healthy. Types of talking therapy commonly used include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Maudsley anorexia nervosa treatment for adults (Mantra) or the specialist supportive clinical management (SSCM).

If you are under 18, you should be offered family therapy. You may also be offered a type of talking therapy such as CBT or adolescent focused psychotherapy.

How can the family provide support?

If you notice that a family member or friend has low self-esteem, severe dieting habits and dissatisfaction with their appearance, consider talking to him or her about these issues. Let them know you’re worried about them and encourage them to see their family doctor who can make an assessment and refer onto a specialist team for further support and treatment. You could offer to go along with them.

Do anorexic people fully recover?

Approximately 50 per cent of those with anorexia nervosa make a full recovery. 30 per cent improve. When the onset is in adolescence, the recovery rate is thought to be higher at 70-80 per cent or more.

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Islam and Eating Disorders founded in 2012 – run by Maha Khan, the blog creates awareness of Eating Disorders in the Muslim world, offers information and support for sufferers and their loved ones.

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