Original Research

Eating disorders and substance use at a South African tertiary hospital over a 21-year period

Hannelie Williams, Karis Moxley, Muiruri Macharia, Martin Kidd, Gerhard P. Jordaan
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 26 | a1421 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v26i0.1421 | © 2020 Hannelie Williams, Karis Moxley, Muiruri Macharia, Martin Kidd, Gerhard P. Jordaan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 June 2019 | Published: 24 June 2020

About the author(s)

Hannelie Williams, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Karis Moxley, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Muiruri Macharia, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Martin Kidd, Centre for Statistical Consultation, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Gerhard P. Jordaan, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Eating disorders (EDs) and substance-related disorders pose a challenge when they co-occur and have implications for patient management. Clinical information on EDs and substance-related disorders as independent disorders is fairly well established in South Africa, but our understanding of the coexistence of these disorders is limited.

Aim: To determine the prevalence, the concurrent nature and the possible trends of substance use among patients diagnosed with EDs at a South African tertiary hospital over a 21-year period.

Setting: The ED unit at Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of 162 patients who were treated for EDs between January 1993 and December 2014.

Results: The prevalence of ED subtypes was 40.1% bulimia nervosa (BN), 33.3% EDs not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and 26.5% anorexia nervosa. Most participants (71.0%) used at least one substance. Alcohol was the most prevalent substance of choice (54.8%). Most patients had an additional psychiatric disorder (62.3%), of which major depressive disorder was the most prevalent (46.3%). Apart from the use of alcohol and cannabis, which remained consistent, the use of most other substances as well as the prevalence of BN declined during the study period.

Conclusion: Understanding the prevalence and trends of EDs and the corresponding patterns of substance misuse is essential to improve service provision. This study emphasises the need to better understand the ongoing and changing behavioural trends in EDs to improve patient management.


Keywords

eating disorders; bulimia nervosa; anorexia nervosa; eating disorder not otherwise specified; substance use; South Africa

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