Muslims whether you are a professional medic or in the mental health field, a parent or suffering from symptoms, Check what you know and don’t know about Eating Disorders
Since the Covid pandemic there has been a surge of cases of anxiety depression self harm suicidal ideation, borderline personality disorder traits, self image dissatisfaction, low self esteem, low energy, low mood , the list goes on
In cases that present a hidden disease has emerged – Eating Disorders
I trained in Psychotherapy and Counselling and in all of that training I hardly received anything on Eating Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa. What I knew about ED from training was limited, but little did I know how possibly damaging that lack of training could be
Traditional (outdated ) psychotherapy theorists would tend to blame the mother/parenting when it comes to ED. Treatment would consist of reparenting or separation from parental ideals, thank goodness research in ED has come along way since then but Unfortunately therapists, GPs and the general public haven’t.
There is still a strong emphasis on blame which is disabling for caregivers and shaming for ED sufferers.
In the community and forums you’ll hear things like “mum needs to let go of control” or “your teen needs to find their own self identity and not from you ” , “ we blame it on social media” or “it’s a modern world/western phenomenon”
The BIG Question remains, how do we help save an ED sufferers life?
In the UK for child or teens, CAHMS is the treatment pathway with some being hospitalised but most being treated by the CAHMS or CEDS team.
How to get help such as hospitalisation Inpatient Care etc https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/recovery-information/help-treatment
The treatment is the Maudsley method aka Family based Therapy (FBT) an evidence based practice which has debunked the outdated blame game towards parents and recruited them instead to cure their kids/teens ED!
As a therapist I was sceptical of FBT. Why would we involve the parents? We thought they were the issue?
However FBT has been surprisingly effective all be it reportedly difficult and not for all, one parent put it “it’s another kind of hell”
Using the FBT approach requires a lot or training, reading and learning which CAHMS or CEDS should do WITH the parents /caregivers, however this isn’t always the case.
FBT involves the whole family but unfortunately this training and learning is not being fully experienced. Forums in the uk on eating disorders are full of complaints and calls for help from parents in utter distress and disparity at confronting the inner nightmare that is ED. Thank goodness for those support groups for without them teenagers may be left undiagnosed even dead and parents at a loss to how to cope.
good resource/book for parents on FBT
I’m writing this to you because having looked up theories and therapists on treatment options of ED I realise that ED is utterly misunderstood, missed and dangerously so. This discrepancy in understanding of ED is not just in therapists but sadly MH practitioners & teams such as CAHMS and also GPs and A&E staff.
If you suspect your client, child or your self possibly has ED they may be in denial, a disorder due to malnourished Brain. (Anosognosiahttps://www.feast-ed.org/is-it-denial-or-anosognosia/?fbclid=IwAR01HJ0B5JDD2Baxmw-nNRb1V14sdAgOAn2crmCE1F4B92DZeDEEfDUIR04 ).
you must therefore consult with a Psychiatrist the parents and GP, NOT the teen/child and please check out the resources below so you are aware of how ED slips through the diagnostic and treatment net.
The parents or caregivers are key to care of young ED sufferers and are about to enter a life long journey with their child/teen. Therapy for the parents of sufferers of ED is one area that needs more thought as it can be very helpful support for the parent/Carer, again therapists you MUST gain training on ED and FBT family based therapy.
Unfortunately Many muslim parents have said the voices or constant bombardment of ED MUST be jinn possession. This assumption can worsen treatment and de power and deskill the parent.
ED is not jinn possession despite the misconceptions and misinterpretations. However Quran reading and Dua must be part of the treatment plan but NOT increasing voluntary fasts.
Be aware, fasting for an ED sufferer is dangerous. Unaware of the effects of a negative energy deficit on the Brain of a malnourished child teen or adult can be the trigger ED needs. Warn parents “Do not let your child or teen fast if they are underweight and have an anxious personality, ocd tendencies, low mood/depression” and if unsure go to a GP to discuss their fitness to fast . Regarding muslim scholor a advice make sure the fatwa scholar reads the resources on ED with you/them. If GPs and therapists aren’t knowledgeable on ED don’t expect an Islamic scholar to be either. Fasting is not prescribed for the vulnerable and ill and this includes mental health disorders.
This is a useful Islamic ED site
For Muslims with eating disorders, fasting is a challenge and a chance
If you have a Client or parent who is facing a possible diagnosis of ED, face book groups for parents are an absolute lifeline with 24hr support, if you see any parent suffering with a child or teen with ED send them to join EDSUK (eating disorder support UK) and any sufferers of ED check out BEAT https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
After investigating Child and adolescent mental health or specialist CEDS (if fortunate to have a local team) they are noticeably underfunded understaffed and stretched to their limit especially during Covid. So don’t expect them to be the support for ED patient or parents/caregivers
WARNING *DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TREAT/TALK ABOUT ED WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE RECENT RESEARCH ON IT *
good start – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5743910/
Private therapies/ therapists that tick “eating disorders” on the list of clients they will see, NO and NO again . Unless you are utterly versed on FBT and highly trained in CBT for ED and DBT (pref with a team for group work) and have recent ED experience with training then NO, and go get some training !
There is so much more to learn on ED but I wanted to reach out to those I know and share my experiences so far as a therapist. I am seeing so many cases in teens and I fear this ED is a oncoming tsunami during this Covid pandemic and is behind a lot of MH symptoms.
Check your clients eating habits and diet because Negative energy deficits have a lot to answer for in our diet mad culture and it’s effecting mental balance and triggering mental health disorders in particular if they have a genetic predisposition to an ED (we can’t know this and not everyone has)
Some key take aways via the FB support page on ED
✅ EDs are brain-based mental health illnesses with a genetic component and can be triggered simply by an energy deficit. So, that healthy eating kick your loved one went on that meant they lost weight? That would be it.
✅ EDs are also triggered by certain events, from trauma to illness, bullying or something else entirely.
✅ EDs cannot be caught and are nothing to do with vanity.
✅ Nothing ‘causes’ EDs – they are triggered.
✅ Anyone of any gender, ethnicity or sexuality can get them if they are genetically predisposed to one.
Some Great Resources
Thank you for reading
As a trained Muslim psychologist, I find the information on your website useful and refreshing. I appreciate how you so effortlessly marry the principles of psychotherapeutic practice with Islam. Thank you for reminding us how challenging ED are and how we need to increase our current knowledge, not only of this disorder, but of all the disorders we will encounter when working with clients.