Grappling with a weighty issue

Posted on November 28, 2014

Photo: flickr

The number of young people suffering from eating disorders has risen significantly in the past decade and is still climbing.

New cases at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), the only hospital to have an exclusive eating disorder programme here, have gone up from 130 in 2011, to 160 in 2012 and 180 last year.

Not only that, close to 30 per cent are also sick enough to require hospitalisation.

Although eating disorders can sometimes be dismissed as vanity problems, they are, in fact, complex and serious psychiatric illnesses. Those between 13 and 19 years old seem particularly vulnerable here. And sufferers may also engage in self-harming, be depressed or have other psychiatric disorders.

While nine in 10 sufferers are young women, males, especially those in their teens, can also fall prey to eating disorders. At NUH, two of its 60 patients have been boys, said Ms Betty Kek, an advanced practice nurse at the adolescent transition service.

Adolescents are most vulnerable as they could be going through a stressful period in their lives, said Dr Lee Huei Yen, director of the Eating Disorder Programme and senior consultant at the psychiatry department at SGH.

Nevertheless, eating disorders are still not as recognised and accepted here as in the West, she said. "This is partly because our society is not so well-informed about mental disorders as a whole."

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Category(s):Eating Disorders, Mental Health in Asia

Source material from AsiaOne