Eating disorders have been stereotyped by it’s a real illness that doesn’t discriminate on race or class and has little to do with vanity. Sadly it can also life-long after-effects.
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder are “silent diseases” that impact on sufferers’ physical health and quality of life, their ability to function in daily life and their relationships with family and friends. Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of all mental health conditions.
The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) explained that an eating disorder was an illness that resulted in people either overeating or starving themselves or adopting unhealthy behaviours concerning food and body weight.
The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) said media stereotypes of beauty and “ideal” body types had long been implicated as contributing to eating disorders, especially for those already vulnerable or at-risk.
Professor Christopher Paul Szabo a SASOP member, said there was a “real vs ideal” disconnect between average body sizes and types in real life versus the often-unattainable ideals portrayed in the media and by social media users.
SADAG said successful treatment may come from a combination of approaches.
Talking to a therapist – particularly cognitive behavioural therapy – can help change unhealthy eating habits and thinking patterns.
Nutrition education, family counselling, and support groups also help, while weight-loss programmes can also get long-term control over binge eating. If depression is an issue, medication can help too.