A rising number of Singaporeans are suffering from eating disorders, some of them as young as nine years old. It may seem surprising in a country like Singapore, where food is an integral part of our culture. But hospitals are seeing an alarming increase in eating disorder cases, especially amongst teenage girls, where the pressure of social acceptance is heavily tied to body image.
The top 3 most common eating disorders in Singapore are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. In this article, we shed light on how to identify the signs, and how you can seek help for yourself, your friends or loved ones who suffer from them.
Top 3 Eating Disorders
1. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is characterised when a person obsessively avoids food or liquids, that leads to spiralling rapid weight loss. The affected individual constantly thinks of herself/himself as ‘fat’ and associate their appearance and weight with their social acceptance. He/she may also resort to purging (self-induced vomiting) or laxative abuse.
2. Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia can sometimes be linked to binge-eating disorder, which involves a cycle of binging and purging. This often happens when the affected individual feels guilty after overeating, which results in self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, extreme fasting and even excessive exercising.
3. Binge-eating Disorder
When a person has this disorder, her/she will tend to binge excessively, impulsively and continuously, and this can go on until the person is uncomfortably full. This disorder is usually emotionally-induced – it can be inherited after an emotional situation, which causes the individual to resort to eating as a form of comfort. However, after binge-eating, her/she may feel a sense of guilt and self-loathing.
What Causes Them?
These disorders can be caused by a combination of psychological, emotional and mental issues, and they can be different for each person. However, some common causes include depression, and poor self-esteem and obsessive compulsive disorder. Other causes can include irregular hormone functions, nutritional deficiencies, environments or jobs that promote weight loss (e.g. modelling, sports) and post traumatic events.
What Are The Signs?
Below are some common signs that you may see in someone suffering from an eating disorder:
- Distorted perception of weight
- Preoccupation with food
- Emotionally-induced eating behaviour
- Self-loathing and guilt associated with eating
- Reduced concentration and thinking
- Increased moodiness and irritability
- Obsessive routines
- Social withdrawal and isolation
How To Seek Help?
If you think that you or your loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, here are some places where you can get help:
- Helpline – Tinkle Friend by Singapore Children’s Society: a resource for children
- Support Group – Rock the Naked Truth
- Treatment – Singapore General Hospital Eating Disorders Programme, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital Nutrition & Dietetics, Better Life Clinic
- Counselling – Singapore Counselling Centre
An eating disorder is a psychological disorder which often comes with other psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. As sufferers may not present any clear physical indications, it is important for friends and loved ones around them to pay attention to any signs of prolonged and excessive mood and behavioural changes.
The journey to recovery from eating disorders can be long and arduous, depending on the severity of the condition. It is important to surround yourself with positive experiences and influences, and learn more about nutrition and healthy living, so that you can foster a positive relationship with food. Eating well is one of the most direct ways of practicing self-love!