The Impact of Conflict on Mental Health and Eating Disorders: A Look at the Palestinian Crisis

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2 Billion People are living under conflict. Post Pandemic and during the Pandemic, conflict escalated in many parts of the world. From Ukraine to Yemen, conflict is taking a devastating toll. Nuclear arsenals are swelling. Conflict is on the rise. Millions are displaced. International law is disregarded with impunity, as criminal and terrorist networks profit from the division and violence. This is the situation the world finds itself in today. The reasons for the outbreak of conflict range from territorial disputes and regional tensions, to corruption and dwindling resources due to climate change. 

Did you know that the political situation, conflict can also exacerbate an Eating Disorder?

To shed light on the personal impact of conflict on individuals suffering from eating disorders, consider the testimony of a 22-year-old Palestinian girl. She already struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, and night eating disorder before the recent events in Gaza. The constant exposure to distressing content via social media platforms has exacerbated her condition. It’s difficult for her to think clearly, focus, or take care of herself. She resorts to food as a coping mechanism, leading to further deterioration of her mental health.

 

Dear Readers,

 

Please find below one of the most important pieces of writing on this website, ‘impact of conflict on Eating Disorders’.  We have entered one of the most testing and turbulent times of our lives. As of October, 2023 Gaza once again is under attack, but this time the scale of genocide is massive.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 5000 Palestinians have been killed and almost 16000 have been injured – Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Illahi Rajioon.

Gaza is now under complete siege with electricity, water, food and medical supplies all seized. Relentless air strikes continue to target homes, mosques and hospitals. The death toll is rising by the hour as the world anticipates the number of fatalities.

 

The conflict has had a huge impact on people’s mental health, resulting in increased anxiety, loneliness and depression. People suffering from Eating Disorders reported panic attacks,  fear of the future, loss of appetite, anxiety and  insomnia. Empathy for innocent people suffering from this bombing and blockade of aid, of course, is a major factor of anxiety.

 

 

Ever since the events of 9/11 Muslims across the world have come under fire. Muslims living in the West experienced less respect because of ethnicity, religion, and ‘being a migrant’. To this day they continue to suffer from soaring levels of Islamophobia and discrimination based simply on their faith. Since then we have experienced nothing but foreign invasions, wars from Afghanistan to Libya to Yemen to Syria to Iraq, the list is endless not to forget the Jasmine Revolution as well . It seems almost impossible to turn on the news or scroll through social media without encountering a reality of what is happening in our world, the emotions stirred by media may remain with us all day. The current onslaught in Gaza has left so many of us shaken.

 

The conflict is impacting our mental health. I haven’t come across a single person who is not affected. We will be sharing the experiences of our readers and psychiatrists about the ongoing conflicts, wars on our website and our social media platform. We start off this series with current conflict in Gaza.

 

We thank Maya from Bangladesh for this post and we thank Mayar from Palestine for sharing her experience.

 

 

We take this opportunity to ask you all to pray for Gaza please.

 

 

 

The Impact of Conflict on Mental Health and Eating Disorders: A

Look at the Palestinian Crisis

 

 

Conflict, whether on a global scale or in our individual lives, has profound effects on our mental well-being. In recent years, the world has witnessed the devastating consequences of the conflict in Palestine, where the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people has left a lasting impact on the population. This article explores the relationship between conflict and mental health, focusing on how the Palestine conflict has affected individuals, especially those suffering from eating disorders.

 

 

The Impact of Conflict on Mental Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized that in situations of armed conflict, a significant portion of the affected population experiences severe mental health problems. This includes conditions like depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic problems such as insomnia. Conflict touches the lives of three main groups:

  1. Civilians within the targeted homeland.
  2. The soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
  3. Those consuming the images, videos, and audio of the war through various media platforms.

Studies have shown that individuals who consume war-related content through television, social media, or other forms of media can be just as impacted as those directly involved in the conflict.

 

The Role of Media in Shaping Perceptions

In today’s digital age, media plays a pivotal role in shaping our perceptions of conflicts. Even before the Ukraine conflict began, the negative impact of social media use on mental health was well-documented. Increased screen time affects various aspects of our lives, from school and work productivity to our overall mental health. Social media platforms are designed to trigger the brain’s reward system, similar to addictive substances, making it challenging to look away.

During times of crisis, people often turn to electronic media as a source of information and as a coping mechanism. While it allows individuals to empathize with those affected and can serve as an avenue for raising awareness and inspiring action, excessive exposure to traumatic content can also come at a cost.

 

Maladaptive Behaviors and Eating Disorders

 

Many individuals, trying to cope with the distressing situations unfolding in conflict zones, resort to maladaptive behaviors. Prevalent feelings of hopelessness are a common theme. Maladaptive eating behavior is one such coping mechanism. This type of behavior is adversely affected by emotions, social influences, or factors other than a genuine physical requirement for nutrition. It can manifest in various forms and is more common in wealthier countries. Maladaptive eating behavior can lead to severe health issues and exacerbate the emotional problems underlying it.

 

 

Testimony of a Sufferer from Palestine

 

 

As a 22-year-old Palestinian girl already dealing with eating disorders, anxiety, and night eating  disorder, the recent events in Gaza have only triggered these struggles. Consuming all the shared  content via social media platforms has undoubtedly affected me. Constantly watching videos,  pictures, and posts of my people in Gaza being murdered every minute with no mercy, bombed, and  demolished is tough on me. I find it hard to think clearly, focus, or even care for myself. These  symptoms can intensify eating disorders and anxiety, making it even more challenging to maintain a  healthy relationship with food. It has definitely triggered my eating disorder and worsened my  mental health issues. I’ve been bothered by overthinking about the whole situation in Gaza, causing  a lot of stress, bad moods, and sleepless nights when I turn to food as a coping strategy for my  anxiety. Most days, I feel incapable of doing anything other than scrolling through news on my  mobile. I’ve tried various ways to cope, such as journaling, meditation, and even taking melatonin as  prescribed by my doctor, but unfortunately, nothing seems to work for me. 

This isn’t meant to divert attention from the suffering of my people in Gaza, but it’s essential to  highlight that even Palestinians living in relative safety in different cities are suffering due to this  war. If I, someone far away from the conflict, am dealing with these mental health issues, one can  only imagine the state of mental health for the people and children in Gaza living in constant fear! 

The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is absolutely unacceptable. The psychological impact of  witnessing the displacement and violence against my own people is paralyzing. While the world is  aware of what is happening and knows who’s right and who’s wrong, there is a disturbing silence in  speaking the truth and a bias toward the Israeli side. How long will this suffering continue? We’ve  endured this for over 75 years, and still, nothing has changed. Even though we want to do  something, we’re oppressed and trapped, feeling completely powerless, especially during this  difficult time. It’s one of the worst feelings a human can experience. We feel helpless and incapable  of doing anything to help the people in Gaza; the only thing we can do is pray and make duaas for  them, which we are doing continuously. 

For those with eating disorders, this can manifest in further unhealthy eating patterns. In my case,  the night eating disorder has become a more prominent issue as I search for comfort in food during  sleepless nights. 

In times like this, seeking professional help and support from friends and family can provide the  necessary emotional guidance. Being around people and avoiding long periods of isolation, sharing  our thoughts, and expressing our emotions with each other obviously helps us. Sticking to prayers,  duaas, Quran, and getting closer to Allah also offers substantial support. Moreover, trying to stay  informed while limiting exposure to distressing news, focusing on self-care, and practicing relaxation techniques can help alleviate anxiety. 

 

 

The Role of Faith and Islamic Points

In times of conflict and mental distress, faith can provide a source of support and solace. Islamic well-being quotes and verses from the Quran can be especially comforting and reassuring. They emphasize resilience and reliance on a higher power during challenging times. Integrating such spiritual aspects into one’s coping strategies can provide a sense of peace.

The Quran emphasizes patience in the face of adversity. One verse that resonates with the theme of conflict and mental health is:

“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” (Quran, 2:155)

 

This verse highlights the importance of patience during difficult times, and it can serve as a source of strength for individuals facing the mental challenges brought on by conflict.

 

Another verse, from Surah Ash-Sharh (Chapter 94), serves as a source of comfort:

 

“For indeed, with hardship [will be]ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be]ease.” (Quran, 94:5-6)

This verse reassures us that ease follows hardship and offers hope to those facing difficult circumstances.

 

Coping with the Impact

 

The way forward is to acknowledge the profound impact that conflict can have on individuals dealing with mental health issues, particularly eating disorders. In times of crisis, it is essential to seek professional help and support from friends and family. Emotional guidance, sharing thoughts and emotions, and practicing self-care are essential strategies.

If watching news is having an impact on your mental health, then please limit the screen time.

Acknowledge the reality and importance of mental health

 

Turn to Allah SWT and remember that He SWT is with you

Spending 5 minutes reciting or listening to Quran daily

→ Doing the morning and evening ‘dhikr/zikr’ (remembrance/ gratitude) as recommended by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

→ Spending a few minutes daily doing ‘dua’ (supplication); ones recommended by the Prophet (PBUH) or your own personal duas in your own language Ways you can connect with Allah

 

 

Take care of your body


This is must Our body is a trust that Allah SWT has given us. Research has shown that the way we take care of our body has a direct impact on our mental health. Eating healthy (more on that later), exercising, practicing breathing techniques, being outdoors, having balanced habits, sleeping enough, etc. all have been shown to have a really positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and even pessimism

 

 

Take care of your spirituality

 

 

 

Islamic Quotes for Coping

 

Let’s draw inspiration from two Islamic quotes to guide us through difficult times:

  1. “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Quran, 2:286)

This quote reassures us that, even in times of conflict and distress, we are not given burdens beyond our capacity. It encourages us to trust in our resilience and the support of a higher power.

  1. Verily, with hardship comes ease.” (Quran, 94:6)

This quote emphasizes that ease follows hardship, offering hope and solace to those facing adversity.

 

 

The conflict in Palestine has had far-reaching implications, not only for those directly involved but also for individuals dealing with mental health issues, including eating disorders. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is a cause for global concern. It’s essential to remember that sharing the truth and offering support can make a significant difference. By standing together, we can help heal the wounds of conflict and offer hope even in the darkest of times. Lastly, keeping the people of Gaza in your prayers can be a powerful act of support.

Conflict and mental health are intertwined in complex ways. The recent events in Palestine serve as a stark reminder of how conflict can exacerbate existing mental health issues, particularly eating disorders. It is imperative that we acknowledge and address these issues to support those affected by such crises.

 

How to help Gaza Today?

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, more than 5000 Palestinians have been killed and almost 16000 have been injured – Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Illahi Rajioon.

Sadqa Zakat

Donating through established and well-coordinated emergency response appeal mechanisms is the most effective way to support people during a humanitarian crisis. Your donations can help provide water, food and medical aid and with all supplies cut off, the people of Palestine are relying on us now more than ever!

 

Support the Palestinian Economy. 

Shop Palestine: Buy the Palestinian Products.

 

Sponsor an Orphan.

 

Over 20,000 children in Gaza are orphans. Without the love, care and support of parents, many struggle to survive and are highly vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and neglect.

 

 

Reference

 

    • Karam, E. G., & Farhood, L. (2015). Depressive disorders during the Lebanese civil war: a preliminary epidemiologic survey. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 8(4), 429-437.
    • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Whaite, E. O., Lin, L. Y., Rosen, D., … & Miller, E. (2017). Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the US. PLoS ONE, 12(6), e0179611.
    • Stice, E., & Shaw, H. (2002). Role of body dissatisfaction in the onset and maintenance of eating pathology: A synthesis of research findings. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 53(5), 985-993.
    • Awaad, R., & Ali, A. (2015). Religiously integrated cognitive behavioral therapy: A new method of treatment for depression in patients who are religious. Journal of Muslim Mental Health, 9(2), 3-14.
    • Mueser, K. T., Gottlieb, J. D., Xie, H., Lu, W., Yanos, P. T., Rosenberg, S. D., … & McHugo, G. J. (2015). Evaluation of cognitive restructuring for post-traumatic stress disorder in people with severe mental illness. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 207(3), 207-211.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Author

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.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this unique content. Thank you for talking about this topic. It’s shocking how silent 😶 everyone is about this topic. Are Muslims only affected by eating disorders and mental health problems in Ramadan and rest of the year is ED free and mental health free time?

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