Thursday, August 24, 2017
A Beautiful Mind - Jewish Approaches to Mental Health -- The Fifth Annual Medical Ethics Conference
Anorexia and bulimia are amongst the most emotionally and physically destructive disorders affecting Jewish mothers - I used to say young Jewish women but now am seeing more and more middle-aged women also suffering from it. It is both a privilege and challenge to work with women suffering from disorders for the past 20 years. Although I treat patients from a wide spectrum of religious/ cultural backgrounds, I specialize in treating Orthodox Jews, as it most closely resonates with my own cultural and religious background. I would like to address two themes in my work with Orthodox Jewish patients.
Although these are very worrisome Jewish problems, they are not more specifically an Orthodox Jewish problem. Interestingly, Jewish boys were also studied, and do not report higher rates than Canadian non-Jewish boys. In Israel, it is also an issue. 47% of Israeli girls were on a diet at the time of study, ± 12% only are the ones who are overweight. I don¶t need statistics to know eating disorders are a very worrisome problem.
You¶re all here today because you know at least one person who suffered from an eating disorder. It may be a full-blown clinical syndrome or a sub-clinical manifestation of the problem which also has a significant impact on psychological and physical well-being. In typical Jewish tradition, I am frequently asked why- why might there be higher rates of eating disorders and disordered eating in Jewish community?
Several hypotheses that reflect socio-cultural ideas in Jewish life come up consistently so I will preempt questions and raise them myself ---
1.Pressure of Shidduchim and the psychological impact on young women to marry and have large families
2.Shabbat and Chagim= Overabundance of food
3.Impact of Holocaust with legacy of starvation
4.Practice of kashrut itself which separates foods into permissible and non-permissible categories (good and bad)
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