At the age of 13, Natalia (not her real name) has always been considered a good student, very demanding with herself, as well as extroverted and with her own group of friends. He has never suffered any type of bullying, in addition to living in a “quiet” environment, according to his father. For two years, he has listened to K-Pop, a well-known musical genre of South Korean origin, well known by the great masses of young people. One of its best known groups is Twice, nine singers who promote a standard of feminine beauty: extreme thinness, fine easy features and very large eyes.
During quarantineNatalia suffered a lot of stress with online classes, she lost contact with her friends and the long idle hours allowed him to listen more than ever to his favorite music groups, investigate new pages on the Internet and consider a series of things, which perhaps before had not in mind.
He never had a problem with eatingBut one day, Natalia began to increase her fluid intake and to take as a routine to drink a glass of water with lemon before sleeping. As the days passed, he started a kind of diet where he combined a reduction in the calories he ate with an increase in the length of meals. “They went from being 20 minutes to an hour and a half, since he marked the times a lot every time he took a bite,” explains his father. She went from being a happy girl to being a more withdrawn person with symptoms of starting depression. And in the fourth month, the physical deterioration was more than evident when “we began to see that he lost approximately one kilogram every 10 days,” says his father. Definitely, Natalia had developed an Eating Disorder (TCA) in those three months, specifically anorexia nervosa.
Natalia could not go to her first therapy until August. One example of many others of how the pandemic has aggravated the cases of Eating Disorder. During the first confinement, requests for help to the Catalan Association against Bulimia and Anorexia (Acab) tripled and from June to November the cases have multiplied by two. Specially requested by parents, couples and affected adults. At the end of this year they will have attended 5,000 new demands, compared to 1,900 in 2019. “The confinement has uncovered existing cases, aggravated cases that had already been diagnosed and has developed new cases of people who were at risk “, explains Sara Bujalance, director of this organization.
A disease that is especially vulnerable among the youngest, although it affects more than 19% of the population, according to data from the Ministry of Health. In Spain there are 400,000 people with an Eating Disorder, of which 300,000 are between 13 and 24 years old, this being the third cause of chronic disease in adolescence. “Until a few years ago, the time frame to develop an ATT was between 12 and 21 years old. Now we are diagnosing cases in boys and girls between 9 and 10 years old, ”says Bujalance.
34% of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 have ever dieted
“The pressure to have a body 10 is much higher now”, explains Clotilde Vázquez, head of the Endocrinology and Nutrition Service of the Jiménez Diaz Foundation. So much so that 34% of girls between 12 and 16 years old have diets without any type of control at some point in their lives – compared to 22% of boys – according to Acap. An alarming fact if we observe that more than 50% have been accompanied by risky behaviors such as vomiting, eating less or skipping meals, which can trigger an Eating Disorder. Sara Bujalance advises that finding a child of this age making a change in his diet should be “praise us as much as if we find him taking some kind of drug because it is risky behavior “.
For his part, Vázquez explains that “90% go on a diet is not important, but 10% can develop the disease due to its character and psychological structure.” Although it recommends that parents “always be attentive” to these types of eating habits that their children choose because most people who suffer from ED started the disorder in this way. “It is not bad to be restless to eat in a healthy way or to take care of our image “, explains David Núñez, a psychologist specializing in Eating Disorders and director of the Complutense Psychotherapy Clinic. But add that “When food and physical image become an obsession, a way to cover up other difficulties or deficiencies in our personality, we can say that it has become a problem “.
In addition, that the greatest conflict of an Eating Disorder is not eating but the relationship that the person who suffers from it has with himself. In short, it is a problem with their identity and with “their self-concept”, which makes them see their body distorted, according to Núñez. “Eating disorders feel trapped and locked in the perception that is often distorted in the body itself “. A discomfort that is triggered by the stress generated by confinement at home. For Núñez, the issue is not only focused on diet, weight loss or self-harm. You have to try to understand and make understand what feelings abound in a person with this mental disorder. “It is vital to ask how they feel “, manifests.
As for the causes, the experts consulted for this report affirm that it does not have a concrete answer, but rather is a compendium of many factors such as cultural, social and psychological. And they agree that the most effective is prevention and go to specialists to be able to carry out a correct treatment, if the problem has been detected. The director and psychologist Sara Bujalance recommends family meals, at least once a day and being very aware of the child’s mood. While David Núñez appeals to the emotional formation of the person. “If you grow with education, in values, teaching you personal knowledge and the management of emotions, we will strengthen your personality structure and we will decrease the possibility of suffering an eating disorder in adulthood. “
Of course, most of the cases go ahead like Natalia’s. Today she is happier than a few months ago, she has a better relationship with food and has practically regained the weight she lost during this time. His father explains that it is essential to detect the problem as soon as possible and that both parties, parents and child, are aware of it. “This comes out “, it states. “The road is long, tortuous, bumpy and emotionally charged, but then you see the positive evolution of your daughter and you realize that all the effort has been worth it”.