Ethical considerations when treating patients with eating disorders
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In South Africa, the prevalence of eating disorders remains largely unknown. However with the unique, complex, social and political transformation of the country and increasing urbanization, it is anticipated that there will be an increased local risk of eating disorders. Psychological, social, biological, cultural and familial factors play a role in the development of these ailments. Adolescence is a time of significant self-awareness, identity development and critical self-evaluation and has perhaps been most impacted by socio-cultural changes in contemporary South African society. It is usually during this developmental phase that, among females predominantly, body dissatisfaction and aesthetic concerns are raised and efforts to address these worries often result in dieting. Western culture and the seductive emphasis on consumerism appear to have a powerful impact on the development of eating disorders. Consequent assimilation of the associated Western value system, where physical appearance and self-worth are seemingly synonymous, seems inevitable. The media plays a pivotal role in promoting and reinforcing the development of eating disorders as youngsters are faced with a barrage of media propaganda suggesting what is the ideal body.