26 July 2005

The changing face of eating disorders

Eating disorders have long been thought to be found only amongst young, upper middle class girls. This picture has now changed.

Eating disorders have long been thought to be found only amongst young, upper middle class girls. This picture has now changed with more and more African and working class women being affected.

So says Dr Carl Ziervogel of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

As African communities become more westernised, more people are being subjected to messages in the media of the “ideal”, thin body type. The “Face of Africa” competition is an example of how African role models have changed, said Dr Ziervogel.

Even though there has been a great deal of pressure on the media to move away from using emaciated models, thin models have been replaced by more athletic, but equally thin women.

The age range of women affected has also changed. Where eating disorders predominantly affected adolescents and young adults, an increasing number of older women now suffer from these disorders.

Treatment has changed
It is not only the profile of sufferers that have changed, said Dr Ziervogel. The methods of treatment are now very different to what they used to be. In the early nineties, when hospitals were heavily state funded, the majority of cases were treated at state hospitals. Treatment lasted several months.

Today more people are being treated at private clinics and hospitals and, due to the costs, the stay is much shorter. Treatment is also less punitive than it used to be and stresses collaboration between the patient, family and treatment team. - (Ilse Pauw, Health24)


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