Eating Disorders in Middle Eastern Countries: Identification and Treatment

Citadel Hill in Amman, Jordan

Eating disorders do not discriminate based on geographic location, and the problematic issue of eating disorders has a global spread. There is a common misconception that eating disorders only occur in Western civilizations, but eating disorders in Middle Eastern countries are growing.

However, eating disorders have been increasingly reported in non-Western countries, including many Middle Eastern Countries. Because eating disorders may present differently in other countries, such as Middle Eastern locations, it is important to understand that the diagnostic criteria that is based on Western norms is appropriate.

Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Middle Eastern Countries

Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa are problematic conditions that are rising with many Middle Eastern countries. One research-based questionnaire on disordered eating that was administered in Cairo estimated the prevalence of bulimia nervosa among school girls at 1.2%, with the prevalence of bulimia nervosa among Iranian school girls to be estimated at 3.2% [1].

Other research among South Asian and Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Oman, and Turkey, found that almost 40% of female nursing college students had abnormal eating attitudes in their first year of study, the highest among non-Western Countries [2].

Similar to the development of eating disorders in Western civilizations, it is thought that a variety of factors influence the development of these psychiatric illnesses, including genetic, environmental, cultural, psychosocial and more.

Connecting to Appropriate Treatment Resources

Mosque in the Middle East fighting Eating Disorders in Middle Eastern CountriesBecause eating disorders may present differently in Middle Eastern cultures, more research is needed to identify potential risk factors, as well as the development of treatment/prevention measures and education strategies.

Many organizations are developing and collaborating to help promote this effort for eating disorder identification and treatment in Middle Eastern countries, including the Middle East Eating Disorders Association (MEEDA).

Increased awareness and research of eating disorders in Middle Eastern countries will continue to help the countless of individuals who may be struggling with these psychiatric illnesses in this specific part of the world.

About the Author:

Crystal Headshot 2

Crystal Karges, RDN is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her nutrition private practice.


[1]: An epidemiological study of eating disorders in Iran. Nobakht M, Dezhkam M Int J Eat Disord. 2000 Nov; 28(3):265-71.
[2]: A survey of anorexia nervosa using the Arabic version of the EAT-26 and “gold standard” interviews among Omani adolescents. Al-Adawi S, Dorvlo AS, Burke DT, Moosa S, Al-Bahlani S Eat Weight Disord. 2002 Dec; 7(4):304-11.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 16, 2016
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