Pandemic and eating disorders in the very young: several studies confirm that the quarantine has increased the cases of DNA among children
Pandemic and eating disorders in the very young
The effects of the pandemic are beginning to be seen on the younger segment of the population, strongly tested by long months of social isolation, unknowns about returning to school, forced distancing from peers, fear of contagion often associated with loss of control and more time available. to focus on self-image. According to the data, months in light from some of the multidisciplinary centers, both public and private, affiliated ADI – Italian Association of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, where in the last year (February 2020 – February 2021) the cases of Nutrition and Eating Disorders (DNA) increased on average by 30% compared to the same period 2019-2020, with a lowering of the age group (13-16 years) and an increase in diagnoses, especially of anorexia nervosa.
The photograph of this emergency was taken on the occasion of the “X National Day of the Lilac Ribbon” – dedicated to the awareness and prevention of DNA.
As he explains Carmela Bagnato, ADI secretary:
THE eating disorders are caused by various contributing causes of a biological, psychological, social nature on which other triggering factors act such as particular stressful situations. The lockdown it has favored above all in boys the establishment of some of these triggers such as social isolation, the unknowns about returning to school, the devices and rules of prevention, the forced distancing from their peers, the fear of contagion that is often associated the feeling of not being in control of the situation. All the conditions mentioned lead to an increase in food restrictions or, conversely, to an increase in binge eating episodes, leading to a greater focus on self-image, leaving more time available to reflect and pay more attention to the body. (and therefore to food and physical activity) and the emergence of dysfunctional behaviors (both in excess and in defect
The psychological impact of quarantine
A study conducted by the King’s College London, published in The Lancet, suggested that quarantine produces negative psychological effects including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), confusion and anger. According to the researchers, these psychological impacts can be long-lasting with particularly risky effects on children and adolescents.
The long-term risks of DNA
Massimo Vincenzi, member for ADI of the Technical Table of the Ministry of Health for the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders, specifies that eating disorders – if not recognized in time and not treated appropriately – can become chronic and at worst lead to death.
Both obese and underweight people with an eating disorder normally have a higher risk of developing medical complications associated with malnutrition; these risks could worsen in the presence of COVID-19. Risks that lead to rethink and review therapeutic strategies in the field of AD in this long and difficult period and to intensify psychological treatments online, trying, as far as possible, to give maximum space to intensive virtual therapies
What to do?
THE food disorders they are not more or less bizarre life choices, but important mental disorders which can induce those affected to take very limited quantities of food or vice versa to overeat in an uncontrolled way, explains Annalisa Maghetti, President of ADI Emilia Romagna:
Early diagnosis and multidisciplinary treatment are the only ways to go to counter the increase of these pathologies. An eating disorder diagnosis is an exceptionally important situation that disrupts the personal functioning of patients and the family group. For this reason, the parental figures are not to blame, but can instead become valid allies of patients and operators during the treatment process, if supported and adequately addressed especially in a difficult period like this.