Eating disorders can kill you; what to watch out for and how to detect them early to save your life

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Laila, 31, teacher, Canadian expatriate, recounts how she recovered from an Eating Disorder

Dubai: At age nine, I decided not to eat. I never enjoyed a meal for the next 20 years.

I survived on practically nothing until my body couldn’t hold on any more two years ago at 29.

I nearly died.

Some people with eating disorders become so because of their obsession with their body image. They want to be stick thin.

My case was different. As a young girl, I had a lot of baggage. I had a lot of issues with my family. I didn’t know how to process them and when I tried to deal with them as a nine-year-old, I didn’t know how. So I basically stopped eating. I just thought about not feeling anything.

It was not an attention-seeking behaviour. I decided I was just not going to eat.

 

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

Please find below a very informative article that was published in Gulf News, ‘Eating disorders can kill you; what to watch out for and how to detect them early to save your life’. We hope you’ll find the article below informative. We share this for information purpose only.

 

 

 

Eating disorders can kill you; what to watch out

for and how to detect them early to save your

life

 

 

 

Do you know 23 people die every day from side effects of such disorders?

 

 

 

 

 

Experts say the increase in the number of eating disorder cases around the world is linked

to the rise of social media use and diets that have now become the social norm.Dubai: Every day, 23 people in the world — or nearly one every hour — die from the side-effects of eating disorders. At least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the US alone.

Eating disorders are serious and life threatening mental health disorders. And the number of people with eating disorders continue to increase across the globe, said Carine Al Khazen, Vice-President of the Middle East Eating Disorders Association (MEEDA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness on eating disorders and providing support to sufferers and their families.

“Eating disorders are on the rise in the world. It is said that that rise is linked to the rise of social media and the rise of diets that have now become the social norm,” said Al Khazen, who is also the director of a specialised Eating Disorder outpatient programme at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Dubai.

“Comparison to unrealistic and unreal Photoshopped and airbrushed images of ‘perfect people’ often act as a trigger for vulnerable personalities with predisposed traits like perfectionism, low self esteem, etc. The rise in diets is also parallel to the rise of eating disorders.”

On June 2, the World Eating Disorders Action Day, MEEDA joins the rest of the world to expand global awareness on eating disorders as genetically linked, treatable illnesses that can affect anyone.

Eating disorders are on the rise in the world. It is said that that rise is linked to the rise of social media and the rise of diets that have now become the social norm.

– Carine Al Khazen, Vice-President of the Middle East Eating Disorders Association (MEEDA)

“Eating disorders are a serious health concern because they touch the body’s essential functions. Food restriction and starvation, excessive exercise, binging, trying to get rid of the food ingested through unhealthy and dangerous ways and, as consequence, are the deadliest of all mental health disorders with up to 20 per cent of the sufferers dying from the medical complications of their eating disorder,” Al Khazen said.

The disorder does not discriminate. Anyone can be affected regardless of social background, gender, age or race. Sufferers can even have a normal body weight.

All eating disorders start with a diet and between 20 to 25 per cent of dieters will progress to developing a full-blown eating disorder, she explained.

Official figures on the prevalence of eating disorders in the Middle East are scant. However, MEEDA is planning on conducting prevalence studies in Lebanon and the UAE but preliminary studies suggest that the figures are the twice as high as in Europe or the US.

Who’s at risk?

A 2012 survey done at Al Ain University said 1.8 per cent of 900 girls aged 13 to 19 were anorexic, compared to just 1 per cent in Britain.

A survey done at Zayed University said nearly one in four of the 228 female students who took part in the survey suffered from abnormal eating attitudes and were at risk of developing eating disorders. Almost three in four were unhappy with their bodies and more than 80 per cent picked thin figures as their ideal body image, Al Khazen said.

“The demographics seem to be also similar to those in the world with up to 95 per cent per cent of the sufferers being females between the ages of 15 to 25 years old. Having said that, there is a rise in early-onset, pre-pubertal anorexia nervosa and we are seeing more and more younger patients. We have many 10-year-old children suffering from anorexia nervosa. It is also rising in woman in their 20s and 30s (post-partum),” she said.

Men also may develop eating disorders but may go undiagnosed due to the stigma of eating disorders being “a woman’s disorder”. Figures show up to 10 million men will suffer from a significant eating disorder at some point in their lives.

This year’s Action Day focuses on the theme ‘Eating Disorders Can’t Afford to Wait!’. This is because early detection and early diagnosis can lead to early treatment which predicts a much better outcome. Anyone reaching a five-year mark with an eating disorder may have severely disabling chronic or fatal illness.

“As a therapist, all cases touch me and suffering is suffering and deserves care. A lot of my patients tell me that they delayed treatment because they thought they weren’t ‘sick enough’ or didn’t have traumatic enough childhoods that could justify having psychological treatments and didn’t feel worthy of care,” Al Khazen said.

“Sufferers either don’t seek help or seek help later which worsens significantly the prognosis of any mental health disorder. So the message is clear: You don’t have to be dying to seek help!”

Eating disorder: RED FLAGS

What to watch out for?

Children: It’s ALWAYS weight loss (even in overweight children)

Others:

■ failure to thrive

■ any dieting, excessive preoccupation on the calorie content of food/ quality of food ingested

■ eating only healthy food,

■ cutting out food groups (even if those are deemed unhealthy by society like chocolates or candies or fast food)

■ excessive exercise

■ spending an undue amount of time in front of the mirror scrutinising the body

■ criticising one’s body, voicing wishes to lose weight

■ disappearing after every meal to the toilet

■ bruised knuckles

■ quantities of food disappearing from the house

Carers’ do’s and don’t’s: How to deal with ED sufferers

DO:

■ Voice concerns and suggest support based on those concerns.

■ Talk about the person’s concerns but be a listening ear.

■ ED sufferers don’t “get better on their own” unfortunately and kids “don’t grow out of them”. With time and age and chronicity, they become worse and cause severe disability and can destroy lives. So parents and guardians need to seek specialised treatment immediately.

DON’T:

■ Don’t be confrontational and accusatory. The worse thing is to threaten a child to go see a psychologist “if he doesn’t start eating better” because that would make the child perceive help as a punishment and there is no therapeutic process in those conditions.

 Do not wait to get help, especially specialised treatment.

‘I had an eating disorder for 20 years and I nearly died’

 

Laila, 31, teacher, Canadian expatriate, recounts how she recovered from an Eating Disorder

Dubai: At age nine, I decided not to eat. I never enjoyed a meal for the next 20 years.

I survived on practically nothing until my body couldn’t hold on any more two years ago at 29.

I nearly died.

Some people with eating disorders become so because of their obsession with their body image. They want to be stick thin.

My case was different. As a young girl, I had a lot of baggage. I had a lot of issues with my family. I didn’t know how to process them and when I tried to deal with them as a nine-year-old, I didn’t know how. So I basically stopped eating. I just thought about not feeling anything.

It was not an attention-seeking behaviour. I decided I was just not going to eat.

At school during the day, I wouldn’t have anything, just water. When I got home, I would eat a lot because of my parents. Then I would throw up secretly.

– Laila

I was a person who was very obsessed with not eating. And whenever I did eat, I would throw up.

At school during the day, I wouldn’t have anything, just water. When I got home, I would eat a lot because of my parents. Then I would throw up secretly.

My parents eventually caught me some time later. They brought me to a doctor who diagnosed me with bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterised by binge eating followed by purging.

Things only got worse. I was in and out of hospitals throughout those 20 years. I would be admitted four to five weeks at a time. I’d come out after five weeks, and then I’d go back for another five weeks.

I was at my lightest at 40kg for my 5-foot 3-inch frame.

My family didn’t really know what to do until I decided to get better myself.

I got myself really sick that way and that was my breaking point. My heart was at a very low rhythm. It didn’t beat regularly. I was very weak and very thin. I nearly lost my life, I almost lost my job.

I realised I wouldn’t be alive for much longer. I needed help, so I decided to get help.

I met Carine Al Khazen, a clinical psychologist and Eating Disorders practitioner, five years ago. She coached me and I recovered two years ago.

I got better through her help and through my determination to get well.

It’s important because you need to have someone who’s on-board with your recovery, who will help you through it.

For anyone going through any eating disorders, I urge you to talk about it. It’s not something you can disregard. Talk about your feelings and what you’re going through with your family and with the right people. Voice your concerns and do not be ashamed to go through therapy.

Getting well is totally up to you but you will need guidance. So don’t be afraid of help. It’s going to save your life.

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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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