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Eating disorders – a condition which should not be underestimated!

Modern life can be tough for children, with pressures to achieve at school, parents being too busy, family conflicts, and even divorce. Such factors can make their upbringing very stressful. What’s more, behaviour in the family is also very influential and leaves both positive and negative imprints on their outlook in life. Such stress and behaviour can affect their psychology and influence their eating habits, resulting in certain eating disorders. If not detected and treated early, these disorders can lead to serious consequences for their health.

A typical case of an eating disorder was seen recently with a 5-year-old child called T.N. from Ben Tre. She was taken by her mother to FV’s Department of Clinical Psychology who was found eating small pieces of brick and plaster from the walls. This behaviour is known as pica and is a form of eating disorder in which people eat non-food items. Such items can range extensively from hair, animal manure, clay, dirt, paint, sand, paper, to even coal.

When T.N.’s mother realized that her daughter was eating pieces of material from the wall, and was often teased by her friends because of it, she was extremely worried. Knowing that FV’s Department of Clinical Psychology specializes in treating eating disorders, she brought T.N. to the hospital for an examination. With psychological therapies to diagnose and treat through intermediary activities, such as drawing and role-playing games, Psychologist Nguyen Thi Thu Hien identified some signs of psychological anxieties and difficulties. The psychological problems of T.N. originated from the fact that she was not very close to her mother and felt a lack of love from her. Eating material from the walls made T.N. feel like she was drinking breastmilk and was being cared for by her mother. Following that initial diagnosis, after more than 4 months of treatment at FV, T.N.s body image was not only returned to normal, but a strong relationship with her mother was also re-established. She gradually gave up the habit of eating non-food items and the parent-child relationship was also improved.

According to Psychologist Nguyen Thi Thu Hien, research has discovered that the major causes of this disease were mineral deficiency and psychological difficulties that resulted in food cravings. Currently, pica is being recognized as a mental disorder and it is often found in young children, women, especially pregnant women; and those who suffer from autism and schizophrenia. In addition, this abnormal food craving may also be a result from a combination of biochemical, psychological and cultural factors. In some studies, pica is related to the following conditions:

  • Deficiency of minerals such as zinc or iron (Hookworm Disease or Celiac Disease may also be the cause of this condition)
  • Mental health problems like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia
  • An injury to the brain
  • Psychological difficulties
  • Lack of love from their parents and a desire for attention.

For patients with psychological disorders in general, and eating disorders in particular, the starting point is usually the feelings of an inferiority due to some problems in their life, and they have difficulty finding help or sharing with their family members. Therefore, treatment is often not administered correctly, and the condition worsens. Most of the patients and family members only think that the condition is due to a lack of nutrients and seek nutrition experts. In fact, having visits with psychologists will help the patient to have an opportunity to be listened to, understood and feel that they are not alone in the fight against their difficulties. Moreover, experts are always available and are willing to hear the problems that patients are struggling with to find effective treatment solutions.

Coming to the Department of Clinical Psychology at FV Hospital, each patient is able to receive advice and consultation from specialists, in accordance with their specific needs, age and circumstances. Understanding the difficulties and pain of patients, the department creates a space for patients to express themselves with a relaxed mindset and in complete comfort without worrying about being judged. Through counselling sessions, psychologists focus on helping patients better understand their problems, sharing pain and improving their mental health. The Department of Clinical Psychology offers services for children from 0 to 12 years old, teenagers, adults, and general psychology. The department provides services of psychological consultation or therapy for individuals, couples and groups. In addition, they are trained with supporting patients with an intermediary tool / group therapy, mental healthcare, support and guidance for parents, and intellectual and personality multiple choice tests to support diagnosis.

To make an appointment at the Department of Clinical Psychology at FV Hospital, please contact: 028 5411 3333 – Ext: 1250

Clinical Psychology Department, 3rd Floor, V Building, FV Hospital, 6 Nguyen Luong Bang Street, Tan Phu Ward, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City.