The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes World Mental Health Day on 10th October every year. For a couple of days prior to and after this significant day, there is an increased focus on mental health issues internationally. Mental illness can take many forms and is not restricted to adults only. In an attempt to do my bit about raising awareness on this subject, I caught up with experts from Dubai’s Camali Clinic – a leading specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
Bullying can start very young, as early as second and third grade in children and is a leading cause of eating disorders. Besides, it is prevalent in every segment of society. Being such a pertinent issue, we spoke about Eating Disorders in children and adolescents, and this is what Dr. David A. Lee, Lead Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the clinic had to say.
A: Typically, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa are the most common.
Bulimia is characterized by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging.
Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by regular episodes of binge-eating but not usually compensatory behaviors (e.g. self-induced vomiting).
Anorexia is characterized by abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight. It is maintained by abstinence from food, often excessive exercise and sometimes self-induced vomiting and/or laxative abuse. It poses considerably more health risks than the previous two.
Q: How are these disorders recognized?
A: There are numerous behavioral, physical and psychological warning signs which may be observed.
- Constant or repetitive dieting; evidence of binge-eating (e.g. hoarding food, large quantities of food being consumed), evidence of purging (e.g. very frequent trips to the toilet especially after meals), abstaining from meals and an excessive exercise regime.
- Sudden or rapid weight loss, regular fluctuation in weight, constant fatigue, fainting or dizziness and loss or irregularity of menstrual periods in females.
- Preoccupation with weight and appearance (often detected in conversation), negative body image or expressed body dissatisfaction and distorted body image (e.g. complaining of being overweight when noticeably underweight)
Q: What are the causes of this? Any correlation with the sex of the child?
A: There is an over-emphasis on appearance and body image in society and especially in the media which seems to play a role. Often young people with eating disorders have high standards of themselves. They may be obsessive or perfectionists in nature and never feel fully satisfied with themselves or their efforts. The interplay with social issues and personality seems to be a crucial factor in causation.
While there has been an increase (in recent years) in young males with eating disorders, it is still a predominantly female issue. This appears to be because there is a media stereotype of the female with the perfect body image. More and more celebrity females are appearing in media looking waif-like and there is a very unhelpful portrayal in the modelling industry of females looking super skinny and malnourished.
Q: Does this warrant medical intervention? Any home remedies, perhaps?
A: All eating disorders should be treated seriously and early intervention is especially helpful. A combination of medical, nutritional/dietetic and psychological treatment is necessary. There is no evidence for home remedies. Because eating disorders can be life-threatening and pose physical harm to the individual, there is a real need for professional help and support.
For our final question, we spoke with Ms. Lina Doumani Khalil, MSc., Clinical Dietitian at the clinic. Q: An approximate idea of the ideal calorie consumption/portion sizes for children of varying age-groups.
A: Caloric consumption and ideal portion sizes are usually very individualized based on gender, height and ideal body weight of the child.
Choices should be from the main food groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables and dairy. For example, between the ages of 11-15, a child should consume on an average 2000 kcal/ day that cover at least 6 exchanges of protein(exchange=30g), 8 carbohydrates, 3-4 fruit, 10 vegetables, and at least 2-3 dairy. Fats are added to make up the caloric requirements.
These are the general guidelines; however, each child should be taken individually considering his/her needs, likes and dislikes and any special requirements such as underlying disease or insufficiency in their daily diets.
About Camali Clinic:
Camali Clinic sees young people between 0 and 18 years who are suffering from emotional, behavioral or learning difficulties including Anxiety and Mood, ADHD/ ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Eating Disorders, Executive Functioning, Learning Difficulties, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Psychosomatic Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Self Harm, Sensory Processing, Speech and Language Difficulties and Stress Related Problems.
It is located in Dubai Healthcare City. To know more about their services and team of specialists, click here.