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What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are complex psychiatric conditions that are characterised by a preoccupation with body shape and weight, and severely disrupted eating habits. This preoccupation causes sufferers to interact with food in harmful ways, which may include:

  • Limiting the amount of food consumed
  • Consuming large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Removing food/calories from the body using unhealthy methods (e.g. self-induced vomiting, abusing laxatives, exercising excessively)

These destructive behaviours can have an extremely damaging effect on individuals’ physical and psychological health, and for some people, can even be fatal.

Our Dubai experts understand that eating disorders are serious mental health conditions. Our highly qualified psychologists and psychiatrists have a wealth of experience in treating eating disorders, and pride themselves on offering individually tailored treatment in order to meet the unique requirements of each patient.

What are the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder?

Eating disorder signs and symptoms can manifest differently in different people. However, the following signs may indicate that you have an eating disorder:

  • Having an obsession with food
  • Feeling as though food dominates your life
  • Experiencing a loss of control over your eating habits
  • Having an obsession with physical appearance and others’ perception of your body
  • Believing that you are fat when other people say that you are thin
  • Abnormally low or high body weight
  • A desire to eat alone or in secret
  • Becoming distressed during mealtimes
  • Experiencing guilt and shame when you eat
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Psychiatric treatment for eating disorders 

At Priory Wellbeing Centre Dubai, we understand that seeking help for an eating disorder can be daunting. However, if you think that you or someone that you know may be showing signs of an eating disorder, it’s important to recognise that you’re not alone, and the most important first step is to seek specialist psychiatric help.

Our Dubai psychiatrists and psychologists possess extensive experience in delivering high quality eating disorder treatment, and demonstrate a proven track record of enabling individuals to tackle their harmful eating behaviours and achieve long-lasting recovery.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the treatment of eating disorders

A highly effective and widely used treatment method for eating disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is based on the principle that psychiatric conditions, including eating disorders, are underpinned by negative thought processes which can prevent you from breaking negative patterns of behaviour and cause a lack of self-belief in your ability to recover. Our eating disorder CBT experts will help you to address your distorted beliefs regarding food and weight, develop an understanding of why these unhealthy beliefs developed in the first place and then equip you with the skills to replace negative thought patterns with healthier alternatives.

Our specialist psychiatrists and psychologists are able to deliver CBT in the form of 1:1 therapy or group therapy, depending on each patient’s unique needs.

What causes an eating disorder?

Research suggests that there are a range of factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing some form of eating disorder. These include:

Genetics – having a close relative with an eating disorder. This could be down to inherited genes, early environmental influences, or a mixture of the two.

Biology – different levels of certain chemicals in the brain have been linked to the development of eating disorders.

Gender – statistics show that females are more likely to develop an eating disorder than males. However, it’s important to recognise that it is possible for eating disorders to develop in anyone of any gender, age or background.

Psychological health – underlying psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or addiction, make it more likely that an eating disorder may develop.

Environment – stress at work or school, receiving criticism for your eating habits or weight, bereavement, or experiencing abuse.

Society – perceived pressure from the media to be thin, and having hobbies or occupations where being thin is seen as important, such as modelling, athletics, or dancing.

What are the different types of eating disorder?

There are four main types of eating disorder, each with their own unique symptoms. These include:

Anorexia nervosa – characterised by an obsession with being thin, a fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. People with anorexia have a preoccupation with keeping their weight as low as possible and achieve this by starving themselves and ‘purging’ their bodies of any calories that are consumed.

Bulimia nervosa – characterised by binge eating followed by induced vomiting, laxative misuse or excessive exercise, to try and remove calories from the body (purging). Binge-purge cycles are often triggered by anxiety, stress or hunger, and are driven by an obsessive need to control food intake. Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia tend to stay a ‘normal’ weight, which can make this condition difficult to spot.

Binge eating disorder (BED) – characterised by regular binge eating, where sufferers often eat huge amounts of unhealthy food, even when they aren’t hungry. People with BED don’t engage in purging behaviours which means that they are likely to become overweight.

Eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) – characterised by features that are associated with the above eating disorders, but these don’t meet the exact diagnostic requirements to receive a formal diagnosis.

Priory offers a Free Telephone Consultation, for further information call today on: (+971) 4 245 3800 or submit an enquiry form in confidence. We will provide you with details on all our treatments and offer help on how to manage your mental health at a time that suits you.

Quality of service

“Over the years we have had many patients who come to our facilities in the UK from GCC countries and it is now high time we bring our quality of service to the UAE”

Dr Saeed Islam, Priory's Middle East Medical Director