How to identify if someone has an eating disorder in your environment

Eating disorders increased sharply with the pandemic

“It all started in lockdown.” This is the phrase that has been heard most frequently during the last two years in the first interviews of young people who have requested help to treat their eating disorder.
Covid-19 has had a strong impact on the mental health of the population.

Social distancing, isolation, quarantine, economic problems and general uncertainty are among the main variables that have contributed to a general increase in sadness, fear, frustration, feelings of helplessness, loneliness and anxiety.

These factors have created an ideal breeding ground for the development of eating behavior disorders (EDs).

Its incidence increased notably in 2020 and, in addition, the symptoms have worsened in those who already suffered from the disorder.

What are the warning signs?

The onset of an eating disorder is often insidious. On many occasions, when the family and the environment identify it, they are already facing an established problem.

In any case, there are a series of signs that warn of the presence of an eating disorder.

On a physical level, the most obvious symptom is undoubtedly weight loss of unknown origin. The family perceives that their daughter or son is getting thinner without there being a disease that can explain it.

When weight loss is important, the body is in a state of malnutrition that can cause alterations such as hair loss, a feeling of constant cold or irregularities in menstruation.

However, we must not forget that not all TCAs lead to significant weight loss. The patient’s weight may not change or may even increase.

What is present in patients is fear and rejection of being overweight.

At the behavioral level, the family can identify certain abnormal behaviors, such as a growing interest in gastronomic topics, learning recipes for others that the affected person never consumes.

It is also common to show a lot of interest in eating an extremely healthy diet and reject certain foods that you used to like.

It is possible that he hides food that he later consumes, or that he gets up from the table and locks himself in the bathroom after each meal and we hear him vomit.

What should parents do?

To begin with, it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what they can do.

Sometimes, to avoid having more arguments, they choose to think that if they do nothing, the problem will gradually disappear. But it is a mistake. Studies tell us that going with the ostrich strategy can make things even more complicated.

So how to deal with the problem when it is detected at home?

Parents should encourage dialogue, show interest in the affected person and in what may be happening to them, fostering a climate of trust.

You should also know that the time of the meal is not the ideal time to start the conversation.

In this situation there are usually tensions and anger. It is better to postpone the conversation to a time when family members can talk without these tensions.