Alone: Secrecy and shame are prevalent among those with eating disorders. *Ceative Commons photo by soundlessfall
Alone: Secrecy and shame are prevalent among those with eating disorders. *Ceative Commons photo by soundlessfall
The vast majority of teenagers that fall victim to anorexia in Bermuda come from wealthy backgrounds.

Although the number of cases reported on the island is still relatively small, psychologist Shawnee Basden says the condition often affects students in their late teens that go to private school.

Dr Basden, who treats patients with a range of eating disorders in Bermuda, told the Sun that most of the patients she sees on a daily basis are in their late teens.

She said: “I would say that around 80 per cent of the patients with anorexia that I have seen in Bermuda are either in private school here or in boarding school abroad.

“There are only a handful of cases of anorexia on the island — around half a dozen that I deal with — and the rate of anorexia in Bermuda is probably less than the US or Canada.


“But these kinds of eating disorders really do affect those at the higher economic end of society where there are high achievers and perfectionists that would follow very rigid rules.

“But that is not just a Bermuda situation — that is the way it is across the world.”

There are generally considered to be three types of eating disorder: anorexia, bulimia and a third category described as Not Otherwise Specified.

Dr Basden said: “In Bermuda, there are a lot of conditions that fit into the third category that sometimes end up being referred to a dietician because they are not seen as psychological disorders.

“But there are occasions when that does not address the underlying issues.


“Anorexic cases tend to be referred abroad to McClean Hospital in Massachusetts or the Children’s Hospital in Boston.

“And prior to 2011 many other patients were also sent abroad because we did not have specialists at the hospital.

“This has changed now and we try to deal with more eating disorders on-island.” 


Get help
• If you or a family member has an eating disorder, call MAWI on 236 3770

Binge eating here could double US rates

Binge eating has reached “rampant” levels in Bermuda, according to an expert on eating disorders.

Dr Shawnee Basden believes the rate of binge eating in Bermuda could be as much as double that reported in the US.

The clinical psychologist, who treats patients with eating disorders at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, told the Sun the problem was made worse by the island’s high rate of diabetes and obesity.

She said: “The problem of binge eating in Bermuda is much bigger than originally thought and this behaviour can often be triggered by insults to self esteem, low mood or problems in a relationship.

“It’s important to identify these triggers and tackle those underlying issues when dealing with eating disorders. In the US, binge eating affects four per cent of females and two per cent of males. But here it could be double that due to our high rate of diabetes and obesity.

“A significantly high number of people in Bermuda are binge eating and I believe that many who are out there dieting would also meet the criteria for binge eating.”

Dr Basden says she has also seen numerous examples of the abuse of dietary pills and appetite suppressants, as well as patients turning to ‘fad diets’ in her work.

She added: “Dietary pills, excessive use of laxatives and fad diets often just mask the real disorder. Sometimes being overweight and binge eating is seen as being lazy.

“That is not the case for the large majority of people. They may have an eating disorder and telling them to diet can lead to more problems in the future.”