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Cyprus Eating Disorder Rates Higher vs. EU, US

maria tsiakaThe rate of eating disorders in Cyprus teens is higher at 35 percent than in the EU and USA, said the head of the Hellenic Centre for Treatment of Eating Disorders (HCFED) Maria Tsiaka.

In the US and EU, an average of 20 percent of teens are affected by eating disorders, so the Cyprus rate of 35 percent is signficantly higher.

This level of obesity, bulimia, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders means that "we should all be concerned," says Mrs. Tsiaka.

"This is mostly due to the increase of obesity in Greece and Cyprus, as it is well known 40% of obese patients is suffering from atypical Bulimia. From these figures, you can understand how many people will become ill because of obesity and severe lipofovia (fear of fat)," says Tsiaka.

As up to 23,000 teenagers could be at risk, Cyprus needs to reorganise and face the issue and it is "very important to provide to all health specialists...the correct training so that they can effectively combat the Eating Disorders disease," she says.

In Cyprus, there is no specialised treatment centre for eating disorders and patients have to go abroad to Greece or the UK. This is a costly and emotionally draining experience for parents and patients. So the HCFED plans to set up a new treatment centre in Cyprus called the Mediterranean Centre for Eating Disorders.

The centre will benefit patients because it will be specialised in eating disorders and obesity and "specialists will use effective modern methods of Maudsley in order to face and cure Eating Disorder issues," says Tsiaka.

The Maudsley approach is an intensive outpatient treatment where parents play an active and positive role in order to help restore their child’s weight to normal levels and hand the control over eating back to the adolescent.

What can parents do?

So, what can parents do if they suspect their daughter or son has an eating disorder? According to Tsiaka, parents should be careful, particularly when children choose a diet to lose weight without a serious reason or because he/she is afraid of "becoming fatter."

"Sudden and rapid weight loss is dangerous, especially when it is combined with new eating habits or new behaviors that occur in everyday life such as frequent weighing, overeating or starvation, the choice to eat alone, to go to the bathroom immediately after a meal, to have intense outbursts of anger around the issues related to food," says Tsiaka.

These are the first signs of an eating disorder which could lead to the serious and sometimes deadly disease of anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

"The characteristics of Anorexia nervosa are low weight patients, over-exercise, limitation of the food range, perfectionism, intense preoccupation with food production or collection of recipes. Also, anorexia thoughts, negative body image, anxiety, strong attachment to family and when they eat sometimes more than usual they use purging methods (Anorexia nervosa bulimic-type)," says Tsiaka.

The characteristics of bulimia are starvation and overeating, over-exercise,  obsession with diets and weight, use of laxatives, diet pills, drugs that reduce appetite, and purging, she adds.

"Individuals with Bulimia evaluate themselves based on their weight, they are eating secretly and they have low self-esteem and negative body image," she says.

Parents should deal with the danger of eating disorders by searching immediately for information from appropriate organisations and "also not to support and facilitate the above-mentioned behaviors," says Tsiaka.

"An excellent book for parents of children with eating disorders and obesity is the ''Do you love me, help me to overcome the problem with food'' . It is written by the famous psychiatrist Professor Janet Treasure and it is translated to Greek language by Vlassis Bros. publications in Athens," she says.

Glamorous model images are not real

Parents can also help their teenagers by pointing out that fashion model images on TV or in magazines "are not real," says Tsiaka.

"Nowadays it is difficult to understand what is real or not so parents should start explaining from very early ages," she says.

It is also very important for teenagers to understand that each person is unique and has to take care of himself/herself in order to be healthy and happy, adds Tsiaka.

She advises teenagers who think they have a problem with their weight to ask for guidance from their parents or adult members in their families. They should never start a diet by themselves or lose weight without taking all needed nutritional ingredients, she says.

"If they don’t take daily the essential nutritional ingredients they will be in trouble, so they have to think about it," says Tsiaka.

The new treatment centre is in the educational phase with a series of seminars and training sessions for Cypriot health carers starting at the beginning of May.

"We have decided to organize, for the first time in Cyprus, a training «Diploma of Psychological and Nutritional Interventions in Eating Disorders»,  in cooperation with the educational, research and scientific team of the famous Professor Janet Treasure, Institute of Psychiatry at Maudsley, King's College London, UK," says Tsiaka.

The aim is to educate specialists such as psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists, dietician, nurses, and social workers so that they have all the necessary tools to properly deal with patients with eating disorders and their carers.

"After the end of the educational period, we are going to start therapeutic treatments, exactly as we do in Athens. Specialists that have completed successfully the training and fulfill requirements will have the chance to work in the therapeutic team of MCFED in Cyprus," she says.

The Cyprus centre will be based on the Hellenic version in Athens, which was founded by Tsiaka in 2006.

"Our Center is unique in the treatment of Eating Disorders in Greece and over the last 5 years, we are seeking the best and scientifically valid ways to treat eating disorders and also educate specialists," she says.

The HCFED belongs to the largest and most famous research and treatment group, the group of Professor Janet Treasure, south London & Maudsley NHS Trust, Eating Disorders Unit.
"The continued presence of the group of Professor Janet Treasure in our Centers in Greece and Cyprus gives us the opportunity to offer services that are not offered anywhere else in southern Europe," says Tsiaka.


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