Dr Victoria Mountford, Lead Psychologist and Eating Disorder Service Lead at Sage Clinics in Dubai, breaks down the most common EDs, their triggers, signs and symptoms, and the support needed on the road to recovery.
1. Anorexia nervosa
Psychological triggers: All ED’s will have similar triggers including dieting, and stressful situations such as family discord, loss, transitions, abuse or bullying, or school or work stress. Factors including low self-esteem, a tendency to be anxious or perfectionistic.
Signs and symptoms: Extreme preoccupation with controlling food, weight and shape leading to being significantly underweight. Physical signs include constant fatigue, feeling cold, hair loss, and in females, periods may stop.
Support needed: A medical review is needed to identify any health risks. Psychological therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Eating Disorders (CBT-ED), Maudsley Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA), or family therapy is recommended alongside nutritional support.
2. Bulimia nervosa
Psychological triggers: The most significant risk factor for bulimia is dieting.
Signs and symptoms: Swollen parotid glands, bruising on their knuckles, bloodshot eyes. They may experience significant fluctuations in weight.
Support needed: A medical review to check for electrolyte imbalances, CBT-ED and Nutritional support.
3. Binge eating disorder (BED)
Psychological triggers: Binge eating can be triggered by emotional distress, boredom and as a way to reward oneself.
Signs and symptoms: Eating large quantities in secret with a sense of loss of control. Feeling of embarrassment and shame.
Support needed: CBT-ED and nutritional support.
4. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Psychological triggers: ARFID can develop if a young person has had an adverse experience with food (e.g., choking), if they dislike sensory qualities of food, or for some, they have low levels of interest or pleasure from food.
Signs and symptoms: Limited range of foods they can eat which leads to nutritional deficiencies and impacts ability to eat outside of home.
Support needed: A new therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – ARFID (CBT-AR) as been developed for those with ARFID. Nutritional support may also be recommended.
As told to Ghenwa Yehia