How to explain the "boom" of eating disorders among young people?

How to explain the “boom” of eating disorders among young people?

It is a clear statement. “Since the health crisis linked to the coronavirus, there has been a 30% increase in consultation requests for eating disorders (ED),” reports Lydie Thierry, president of End-TCA, the Support Establishment for eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating). eating). An increase that the psychologist Isabelle Siac, a specialist in these disorders, also points out in her consultation: “There was a boom at the end of the first confinement, but the explosion was really with the endless semi-confinement in the fall of 2021.”

As expected, according to the two experts, the age group of 15 to 30 years is particularly affected by the phenomenon. “Simply because the peak age of onset of these disorders is between adolescence and early adulthood,” explains Professor Nathalie Godart, vice president of the Ile-de-France TCA network and president of the French Federation of anorexia bulimia (FFAB). But also because during adolescence, during which one’s identity is built about others, and during the years that precede family life, social ties play a very important role.

“Deprived of liberty, they compensated with food”

If the stress generated by the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the triggers of eating disorders, the main culprit continues to be confinement. “A confined hit, an unconfined hit, a semi-confined hit, a hit under curfew, etc. This has greatly altered the daily lives of young people, says Isabelle Siac, author ofA feeling of insecurity so vital. Some have been able to adapt and find a new rhythm, others have not. The psychologist evokes remote appetizers, too frequent requests for prepared meals, or even “young people who have seen their food balance altered when they return to their family”. Thus, the symptoms of those who already had ED may have worsened and those who simply had a somewhat problematic relationship with food developed these diagnosable disorders.

“Deprived of freedom or social ties, they became unbalanced with food, the last activator of pleasure to which they had access”, analyzes Lydie Thierry, regarding cases of binge eating. Anorexic and bulimic disorders are rather the consequence of a loss of frame, daily rituals, and limits. “Some started eating things that they would never have eaten before. One of my patients ate ice cream in the morning”, gives us an example of the one published by the End-TCA association Binge eating disorder in 100 questions/answers. Lydie Thierry notes that eating disorders can stem from a “need to regain control, particularly of one’s own body, through food.”

Care breakdown and overwhelmed teams

The lockdowns also prevented good patient care. With the travel ban, follow-up care for people who already suffered from ATC “was complicated, even with video consultations,” says Lydie Thierry. And patients who began to suffer from eating disorders were unable to access care early. “Today, services are facing a very significant increase in support requests. The number of patients is greater, as is the severity of the disorders”, reports Nathalie Godart. Psychologist Isabelle Siac says she is seeing more and more severe cases of anorexia and bulimia “with patients making themselves vomit up to five times a day.”

Care teams are overwhelmed because these situations require more human resources, more time, and more support. “Results, people suffering from erectile dysfunction have great difficulty finding care and their situation is getting worse. It is a vicious circle”, laments the professor.

Telecommuting and snacking

Could the end of confinement have solved the problem? There was no telecommuting, which was widespread in a large number of companies. “Employees take their lunch hour at any time, they eat in front of their computer on autopilot,” says Lydie Thierry. They disconnect from the sensations of food, fullness, and satiety. This leads to snack time. »

Nathalie Godart, president of the FFAB, recalls that it is always possible to go to your doctor, pediatrician, child psychiatrist,t or even call the anorexia bulimia information. On the other hand, the human rights defender Claire Hédon called on Thursday, World Eating Disorders Day, for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to launch an emergency plan for the mental health of young people in the face of “the seriousness of the situation”, considering that they are deployed means “largely insufficient”.

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