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Psychiatrist educates Sunshine Coast community on eating disorders


Dr Fionnuala DunneA psychiatrist from the Buderim Private Hospital has released a video which aims to educate community members about eating disorders.

The latest video in the Buderim Private Hospital’s Care to Share video series and has been released to coincide with Mental Health Week which is an annual awareness week that aims to shine a spotlight on individual and community mental health and wellbeing.

The video features an exclusive interview with Dr Fionnuala Dunne who shares information about the symptoms and behaviours that characterise eating disorders, including what may trigger anorexia.

An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that involves an unhealthy preoccupation with eating, exercise or body shape. Eating disorders include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).

Dr Dunne said that eating disorders commonly affect females in their teenage years and young adulthood and the prevalence of anorexia is about 1-2% of the female population.

“Generally the things to look out for is losing 10% of body weight, stopping menstruation as a result of a restricted food intake, and engaging in behaviours such over-exercising and purging or vomiting,” Dr Dunne said.

“The actual trigger for anorexia is dieting so I would strongly urge parents to never put their child on a diet, recognise the hallmarks of the disease and reach out for specialist support if they are worried,” she said.

“Because of the lack of flexible thinking associated with starvation, I think it’s the only disorder where somebody's really sick and they still say, "I'm fine.”

 “Starvation can affect every organ, and some of the common effects are when somebody stands up, they're dizzy. That's because due to muscle loss, the heart has to work harder to maintain their blood pressure. People can also get low blood sugar and that can lead to a health crisis.”

Dr Dunne said she believes we can all play a role to focus less on weight and more on promoting positive body images.

“Eating disorders do seem to be increasing in prevalence which I think has to do with the dieting culture and the pressure on younger women to be slim,” she said.

“I think it's important for parents to have a body positive attitude, foster open communication with their children and to be vigilant around any kind of restrictive food intake behaviours.”

“The good news is that there are very effective treatment programs for eating disorders and people can and do recover.”

The Buderim Private Hospital’s Cooinda Mental Health Service is the largest provider of private mental health services on the Sunshine Coast and its inpatient and outpatient programs treat mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders.

Buderim Private Hospital has been serving the Sunshine Coast community since 1980 and is part of UnitingCare, which is the health and community service provider of the Uniting Church that supports thousands of people every day of the year through its well-known and respected services, including Blue Care and Lifeline.