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British women living in Dubai are turning to loose sex to cope with poor mental health

Life in Dubai looks like a life of sparkling parties and high fashion, a land of glitter and glamor, but behind closed doors many women – both married and single – struggle with a series of psychological problems, from postnatal depression to marital abuse and a sense of social isolation, and it affects all levels of society.

Psychologists have revealed that many British foreign women are turning to behaviors such as loose sex and plastic surgery, trying to numb the pain of feeling lost in a foreign country.

British psychologist and author, Darren Timms, sees women from all walks of life; mostly professionals but others including actresses, singers, movie stars, writers and flight attendants.

Some have just come to town for a chance to improve their careers, or have loyally followed their husbands while giving the family a better life. They end up in an endless cycle of parties and alcohol, resorting to many distractions to fit in, but to no avail.

And they all have one thing in common; they are all looking for an elusive happiness.

Women in Dubai, away from their support system such as family and friends, are unable to cope with the stress and boredom of living abroad, and turn to a spiral of shopping, drinking and partying to get better to feel (stock image)

Women in Dubai, away from their support system such as family and friends, are unable to cope with the stress and boredom of living abroad, and turn to a spiral of shopping, drinking and partying to get better to feel (stock image)

Life in Dubai may sound glamorous, but psychologists have explained that many British female expats are struggling with serious mental problems that encourage them to drink heavily, have casual sex and have aesthetic operations in the hope of belonging (stock image)

Life in Dubai may sound glamorous, but psychologists have explained that many British female expats are struggling with serious mental problems that encourage them to drink heavily, have casual sex and have aesthetic operations in the hope of belonging (stock image)

Life in Dubai may sound glamorous, but psychologists have explained that many British female expats are struggling with serious mental problems that encourage them to drink heavily, have casual sex and have aesthetic operations in the hope of belonging (stock image)

“They don’t know where they can find it, so they look for it outside of themselves, which will always be a fleeting and temporary experience,” said Timms, author of the best-selling Journey Back to Self in the region.

“They use casual sex, relationships, shopping, food or some addictions to keep the pain short because they don’t have the pleasant emotions they are looking for.”

Dr. Tara Wyne, psychologist and founder of The Lighthouse Center For Wellbeing, says it’s a way to hide from a ‘conveyor belt’ of requirements.

Why is mental health a growing problem for female expats in Dubai?

Mental health is an emerging area in the Middle East, something that is slowly becoming more available, but is still bathed in stigma and because of the health insurance system is still unaffordable for many who need it, with sessions that often range from £ 120 to £ 160 per hour.

Although there is little expat-specific data in the UAE, research around the world has often shown that expatriates are more likely to be at greater risk of mental illness and substance abuse than those who do not move abroad.

In the UAE, mental health is among the top three major causes of health problems, with depression as the most common disorder.

An Aetna International study in 2016 showed that expat mental health was already a growing problem back then. From 2014-16, mental health claims in the Middle East increased by 28 percent, although the highest increase was observed in Europe, with an increase of 33 percent. Women were the ones most likely to seek treatment, and not surprisingly, depression topped the charts.

‘Many women I see describe a very functional life. They are single or married and work or work mothers or stay at home mothers. For all these women, the mainstay is to serve your job and relationship or to serve your job and family.

“They describe the feeling of the ‘assembly line’ of constantly serving calendars and ticking task lists,” she explains.

“With friends and family who are not easily available to cope with stress or boredom, these women are vulnerable to habits such as shopping and drinking to experience a positive emotion, a high or a boost, often seen as” a treat, she says.

‘This is not a problem in itself, but if you are addicted to extrinsic rewards to strengthen your mood, you are stuck on the hedonic treadmill where you drink, shop or indulge and once you are beyond your temporarily elevated levels of happiness back to where you are are and you must do the following. ”

She says that the most vulnerable are the new expats experiencing homesickness, displacement, or lacklusterity, participating in the Dubai circuit of parties, clubs and brunches, drinking to belong, finding a tribe, and settling down.

With a huge number of women turning to plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, from rhinoplasty to Botox, bariatric surgery to boob jobs, it can trigger comparison, feeding those with even the slightest sense of inferiority complex, Timms says.

Aesthetics is one of the addictions Timms sees the most, not surprising when Dubai has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city. Bil implants have even surpassed breast augmentation because the Kardashian effect is also applied in Dubai.

British psychologist and author, Darren Timms (photo) sees women from all walks of life; mostly professionals but others including actresses, singers, movie stars, writers and flight attendants

British psychologist and author, Darren Timms (photo) sees women from all walks of life; mostly professionals but others including actresses, singers, movie stars, writers and flight attendants

British psychologist and author, Darren Timms (photo) sees women from all walks of life; mostly professionals but others including actresses, singers, movie stars, writers and flight attendants

Dr. Tara Wyne (photo) explains that expat women in Dubai often face the same daily challenges as in their home country in the past, in addition to having to adapt to a new country, a way of life and an environment that encourages them level of stress

Dr. Tara Wyne (photo) explains that expat women in Dubai often face the same daily challenges as in their home country in the past, in addition to having to adapt to a new country, a way of life and an environment that encourages them level of stress

Dr. Tara Wyne (photo) explains that expat women in Dubai often face the same daily challenges as in their home country in the past, in addition to having to adapt to a new country, a way of life and an environment that encourages them level of stress

“The amount of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures is incredibly high here, and that is only going to grow as more and more young women see this place as the land of opportunity, and to put themselves in pole position, they think they have a certain way. There are many more reasons, but these are fundamental issues for women here in Dubai, “says Timms.

Dr. Wyne says that the lives of expats “have layers of complexity that are often ignored.” In the family, women are still often the backbone and research shows that the adaptation of the woman / mother to the expat life dictates the transition and the successful adaptation of the entire family.

Ensuring that it is done properly is crucial for the entire family. Expat women in Dubai play multiple roles and are the hub for many lives around them, says Dr. Wyne, a mother herself. Often misunderstood as leisure women who lead a luxurious self-centered lifestyle, reality is often the opposite.

These are courageous women who give up a familiar life in a strange new culture and climate, leave support networks behind and play a new role as they and the people around them adapt.

These are courageous women who give up a familiar life in a strange new culture and climate, leave support networks behind and play a new role as they and the people around them adapt.

“They face all the normal challenges of everyday life plus those of finding a community, developing a meaningful ecosystem for themselves and / or their families, navigating through changing roles and expectations while integrating into a new culture and often play different roles than before, “Dr. Wyne.

For single women, finding a meaningful relationship in a passing society can also prove to be a challenge. Dr. Wyne sees that many use casual sex to fulfill their social and emotional needs.

And in a new country it is not always easy to have the necessary support without friends and family to help, whether you adapt to a new work culture or to life as a new mother.

Dr. Marie Thompson is a British psychologist at the Vivamus clinic in Dubai. “Sometimes it’s just about having family or friends around, but the transient nature of Dubai means that there isn’t always one and you don’t have your normal first line of support,” she explains.

This transience applies as much to social support as to social care. “If you have access to professional support, doctors also come and go and even move many clinics,” she adds. “They often even go back to their home country or to a new place, which can be very destabilizing for a patient.”

This support can be crucial for new mothers, one of the greatest risk factors of postnatal depression as social support, and in an expat environment it is not always possible to have the people around you. “After the postnatal period, there is only the feeling that people come and go,” Dr. Thompson explains. “Maybe you make that village, but often people can leave here very suddenly.”

If something goes wrong, or if there is no help for an abused woman, there are fewer places to turn around and laws can be complex. Many women are financially dependent on their husbands and for their residence status, so do not have the choices they have in their home country.

British expats in Dubai

There are currently between 100,000 and 200,000 British in the UAE.

The number has grown steadily from 20,000 in 2008.

According to research from 2019, more than a quarter of them (27 percent) moved to the country thanks to the tax-free salary.

The HSBC Expat Explorer survey, released in January 2019, found that nearly three-quarters of expats working in the UAE earn more than in their home country.

Nevertheless, a third expat hopes to return home one day, according to a study by Hoxton Capital Management in Abu Dhabi.

“It is not uncommon for some men to stop access to money and / or introduce a travel ban for children leaving the country, which makes some women feel unable to leave,” she explains.

For this type of women and people without health insurance for help, Dr. Thompson pro bono sessions. “It is definitely a situation that is very unique for this part of the world,” she says.

These psychologists are among those who fill a critical gap and offer women what their only source of support may be. “My role in Dubai overlaps and certainly reflects the work I have done in the UK,” says Dr. Wyne.

“I do think, however, that in Dubai I am often the only secure attachment figure my client has in his life. They may have friends and family here, but most of those relationships are conditional and a lot is expected from my customers.

‘In a culture where performance and performance are central to maintaining your place of residence, you cannot afford vulnerability or mental health problems to jeopardize your performance. Support is a real necessity for many. “

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