Eating Disorder

What is an eating disorder?

The DSM – 5 (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition) states that eating disorders are “characterised by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behaviour that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning”. They are serious mental and physical illnesses that involve complex and challenging relationships with food, eating, exercise, and body image.

Eating disorders are found in all populations regardless of age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sex, gender, etc. Eating disorders may include pica (eating things not normally considered food), rumination disorder, restrictive eating behaviours, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

  • Indications that food, weight loss, dieting, consumption and control of food are becoming more increasingly important
  • Preoccupation with diet, food intake, calories, types of food, refusal to eat, or food restrictions
  • Secrecy around food or food behaviours
  • Concern with body shape or size or severely compromised thinking around body shape and size
  • Mood disorders
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Smell of vomit (evident of purging)
  • Increased requirements for plumbers
  • Hoarding, rituals, or large amounts of food wrappers
  • Dramatic weight gain or loss

Criteria for an Eating Disorder

There are many types of eating disorders, for which the criteria differs. The only way to determine if you or a loved one has developed an eating disorder is to complete a thorough assessment with a qualified healthcare provider.

Risk Factors of an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are extremely complex and risk factors include a range of biological, psychological and sociocultural issues. Two people with the same eating disorder may have entirely different symptoms and experiences. However, the following factors may increase the likelihood of an eating disorder:

  • A family member or relative with an eating disorder
  • Trauma or intergenerational trauma
  • A history of dieting and restrictive eating
  • Perfectionism and/or rigid behaviours and thinking
  • Body dysmorphia
  • History of an anxiety disorder
  • A history of being teased or bullied, particularly over weight
  • Acculturation
  • Limited social network
  • Type 1 Diabetes

Treatment Process

The treatment process is dependent on whether or not the patient is medically stable and does not require medical monitoring. Hence, a physical health check is crucial before proceeding with outpatient treatment. Psychiatric assessments may then be undertaken to ascertain whether or not the patient can function in normal social, educational and vocational settings.

Once the physical and psychiatric assessments are complete, psychotherapy is then conducted. This usually takes the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Family Based Treatment (FBT) and other evidence based treatments.

In short, medical stabilisation, psychological interventions and the development of a supportive environment are critical components in treatment, and recovery may be a lengthy process.

What can I expect at my first appointment?

The first visit will include a detailed medical and psychological history, in order to assess the patients physical, mental and environmental health. This will allow our experts to ascertain immediate treatment requirements. Medical referrals will be made, should inpatient or more comprehensive medical support be required.

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#11-15/16, Novena Medical Center, 10 Sinaran Drive,
Singapore 307608

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