Help with Eating Disorders in Cape Town

An eating disorder is caused by anxiety and an intense preoccupation with body weight and physical appearance, which leads the affected person to alter their eating habits and digestive processes. We ascribe eating disorders to underlying emotional imbalances that can be remedied through cognitive social and emotional rehabilitation. We work with the deeper emotional issues that underpin eating disorders. Treatment is predominantly based on group therapy.

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We help you to counteract disordered thoughts that trigger your problematic responses. We follow up on your daily challenges to create awareness of the things that trigger your reactions and how to handle them.

Using a structured cognitive process, we create a holistic solution for you. We respect the fact that your thoughts and feelings are reflected in your relationship with food and we are here to help.

We treat obsessive behaviours such as fasting, over-regulation (dieting and calory counting), binge eating, regurgitation and purgation, all aimed at controlling body weight, but resulting in severe health problems.

Eating disorders are not merely simple changes in the eating patterns of affected people. These disorders are underpinned by a very complex range of systems that increase in severity over a period of time.

The most prevalent underlying symptoms are; a person’s own distorted view of their body image (appearance), excessive fear of gaining weight and a desire to gain acceptance or value by improving their body image. Some become obsessive and overly critical of themselves and sucumb to destructive methods which they continue to employ far beyond their initial intentions, but they are unable to change their behaviour.

In the past 30 years, eating disorders have become a more frequent cause of illness. Studies show that more people are now suffering from the eating disorders known as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These disorders are more common in women than men, but in recent years the number of affected men have also increased.

The person who suffers from an eating disorder sees their diet as a means to overcome psychological factors – all the thoughts and acts of their daily life are overshadowed by it. They feel hyperdependent on controlling their body image by controlling their food absorption. Food becomes the axis around which their life and world turns.

Not all sufferers are affected in the same way or to the same degree. It depends on factors like the level of self-esteem, family pressure, level of frustration about being overweight, constant comparison with other people and a number of other influences.

Generally, eating disorders are accompanied by the persons isolating themselves, exessive tiredness, sleeplessness, irritability, shame, aggression (especially towards friends and family), guilt, depression and misleading others by fabricating excuses for their condition.

Biological Factors
Psychological Factors
Family Factors
Social Factors

Symptoms to detect an eating disorder

Keep in mind that obsessive dieting routines are compulsive. The person knows that it is harmful, but can not stop it.

  • Significant weight loss.
  • Person eats alone or avoids eating any food.
  • Counts calories of foods and weighs themself often.
  • Has mood changes that relate to having eaten or not.
  • Sees “fat”, even though there is significant weight loss.
  • Encloses themself in the bathroom after eating, without a reason for it.
  • Has obsessive exercise routine.
  • Often looks at self in mirrors, without saying anything.
  • Acts or looks nervous in the presence of people or near food.

A person with bulimia indulges in bouts of overeating, followed by purgation or fasting to get rid of the excessive food. They abuse laxatives to “empty” themselves. They have a strong preoccupation with how their bodies look. They blame themselves for losing control (overeating) and become depressed, anxious and have guilt feelings. They repeat this procedure up to 15 times per week. It mainly affects young women and people who have had anorexia or had previously followed uncontrolled diets.

Two types of Bulimia:

Purgative bulimia: After a binge eating session, the person uses laxatives, diuretics and induced vomiting as compensatory methods.
Bulimia non-purgative: After binge eating, the person exercises excessively, goes on a restrictive diet or starts fasting.

The main consistent factors are anxiety, lack of self esteem and alteration of body image. Some consequences of bulimic behaviour are amenorrhea, malformation of the fingers, dental and maxillofacial problems (due to binge eating), hair loss, arrhythmia (can lead to heart attack), esophageal perforation, pancreatitis.


  • Contempt for others or themselves.
  • Need to feel attractive.
  • Need to belong to a group.
  • Need to feel loved.
  • Relates success and prosperity to thinness.
  • Mood changes.
  • Depression and / or anxiety.

Anorexia is characterized by high weight loss (more than 15%) due to extreme diets, purgation and excessive physical exercising. They routinely overestimate the size of any part of their bodies.

Psychological and social characteristics include intense fear of eating in the presence of others. Prefers low carbohydrate and low fat diets. Overly concerned about food. May abuse laxatives. Lies or makes up excuses about condition.

The main victims of this disorder are women, especially young women, who may be influenced by the sight of famous media personalities such as actresses, singers and models.

Two types of anorexia:

Restrictive Anorexia Nervosa: The person hardly eats and often performs excessive exercises. The person does not resort to binge eating or purging.
Purgative Anorexia Nervosa: Regularly engages in binge eating and uses purgative methods like vomiting, diuretics, laxatives, enemas, even after small portions of food.

Etiology of Anorexia

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Limited social life.
  • Sensitivity to failure.
  • Fear of getting fat.

There are effective and successful therapeutic methods available for treatment of eating disorders:

Psychological treatment: Aimed at achieving lasting changes in distorted thought patterns and the negative emotions related to weight, shape and body size. Enables patients to change their value system and reconstruct or recover their identity to make them feel good about themselves. Enables them to avoid resorting to food control in the face of everyday challenges. The treatment can be individual or in group sessions with other people who share the same problems and, sometimes, with loved ones in attendance.

Nutritional treatment: Professional advice about healthy eating habits and the danger of unnecessary diets and diets that, although perhaps justified, are not prescribed / controlled by a competent health professional.

Pharmacological treatment: Prescription medication for patients who need it (in combination with psychological treatment) to resolve symptoms such as depression, anxiety or impulsivity, especially in cases of bulimia and binge eating.

Treatment objectives

Inform the person about the disorder. Perform medical checks to ensure physical recovery. Control purgative and eating behaviours and physical activity. Emphasise adherence to treatment. Improve personal, social and family relationships. Achieve full recovery.