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What you need to know about eating disorders with Dr Sarvani Pather

Eating disorders affect all different types of people, negatively impacting their mental and physical health as well as their productivity and relationships. Dr Sarvani Pather, a psychiatrist at Akeso Crescent Clinic, explains what elements could lead to Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia (BN), as well as any tell-tale signs or symptoms and what the recovery process looks like.

By Ulisha Moodley


‘In terms of biological and genetic factors, twin studies have shown a higher correspondence for both AN (restricting type) and BL in identical twins than in non-identical twins,’ Dr Pather points out. So there is a hint of genetic influence involved.


Key factors that can contribute to AN include being obsessive, compulsive, fearful and anxious. Borderline personality traits, like impulsiveness, anger, unstable relationships and low self-esteem, can lead to BN.


Society and the media play a big role when it comes to eating disorders. Advertising, as well as the constant exposure to influencers, punting having a ‘thin body’ can lead to body dissatisfaction. The environment within the home is also a large factor. If there are hostile and negative interactions present, as well as a lack of parental affection, it could result in BN.


Highly competitive sports, such as gymnastics, horse racing (jockeys) and ballet, could lead to eating disorders as well because being lean is valued in these activities. Dr Pather also explains that the development of an eating disorder could be a coping mechanism, a way to communicate, defend and even solve other problems.


Baggy layers of clothes are often worn to conceal rapid or extreme weight loss. Additionally, both AN and BN can result in a swollen or puffy face and in AN, the growth of extra fine hair growing on the body. There may also be an obsessive, secretive or changed behaviour around food. Food fads, slow eating and eating rituals are all good examples. Other symptoms could include headaches, dizziness, constipation or stomach pain.


Treatment options include in-patient treatment, or hospitalisation, or out-patient treatment at a specialised unit, clinic or hospital with therapy and day-treatment options available. Which option is best depends on the person and their situation.


Akeso Clinics is a group of private in-patient psychiatric clinics providing individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment for a range of psychiatric, psychological and addictive conditions. Akeso Clinics offer specialised in-patient treatment facilities.

Visit or contact 011 447 0268

In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 4357 87 for assistance.

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