Eating disorders, a group of serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact one's health, emotions and ability to function in important areas of life, have been on the rise in China in recent years.
For instance, Peking University Sixth Hospital, one of the country's top clinics for treating mental disorders, hospitalized 104 patients with eating disorders from 2001 to 2005, three times the number from 1993 to 2004. The number of hospitalized patients with eating disorders soared to 250 in 2015.
Eating disorders are often accompanied by other mental illnesses such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and sleep disorders, adding to the difficulty of treatment. For instance, patients may refuse treatment by hiding the medicine.
As the only hospital that possesses a closed ward for eating disorders, Peking University Sixth Hospital has only 15 beds. The number of beds can be increased to a maximum of just over 20, but only female patients are allowed, as the ward was renovated from a women's ward. There is also a lack of medical personnel. In China there are 1.49 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people on average. It takes five to six years to train a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders, and few are willing to take up such work.
Family-based therapy, which is popular abroad, may help solve the problem. Under the therapy, parents are encouraged to play a larger role in the treatment of their children and to cooperate with doctors to help children overcome the problem.
Moreover, prevention is also crucial in curbing the rise of such conditions. Something should be done to change the obsession with a slim figure which has become popular since the 1960s the world over and which has partly contributed to the increasing number of eating disorder cases.