Eating disorders have become a serious problem among teens during the pandemic years. In 2020, this messy behavior has become prominent online, and the new teen free time has introduced these behaviors more than ever.
A study by the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 2.7% of teens struggle with eating disorders. The National Eating Disorder Hotline has seen a 40% increase in calls since 2020. 35% of calls in 2021 were from people aged 13-17.
According to the New York Times, the rise in eating disorders may be linked to the isolation everyone felt at the start of 2020. Teenagers who thrived in college or extracurricular activities found themselves lost in May 2020 and many fitness or health goals have been created. feel productive.
Teenagers often looked to social media for information about their physical condition. Looking for inspiration, many have found harmful social media posts encouraging eating disorders.
“The comparison that occurs online is not normally with realistic images. Most of the images are doctored and the people in them may seem happy, but most of the time this is not necessarily true,” said said Jill Asprey, the Kennedy school nurse.
The main eating disorders observed in adolescents are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Each eating disorder has different symptoms and affects everyone individually.
“Restriction is more common right now in what I see. I haven’t heard of purging as much. I just saw more students who just don’t eat,” Asprey said.
Anorexia is generally the most well-known eating disorder. People with anorexia are strict with what they eat. Anorexia can sometimes include the fear of gaining weight and body dysmorphia – an obsessive focus on a small defect in appearance.
Bulimic patients consume large amounts of food and then “purge” their stomach by inducing vomiting.
Anorexic patients normally have abnormally low weight. Bulimic patients can have any body type. Both disorders can cause low blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and being tired, weak, or passed out. In women, anorexia can affect menstruation, and in younger people, anorexia can slow puberty due to lack of nutrition. Some cases can result in a long-term low red blood cell count.
Sophomore Abigail Richey, recovering from anorexia and purging tendencies, has struggled with obsessive thoughts about food.
“If I eat this, how will it affect my body? Will it make me gain weight?
Binge eating disorder is usually linked to bulimia. Anyone can binge eat at some point in their life, but that doesn’t mean they have the disorder. Binge eating disorder refers to people who binge eat without control at least three times a week.
Common themes in patients with binge eating disorder are low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and difficulty coping with strong emotions. Binge eating has longer-term side effects like diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea, which causes interrupted breathing while you sleep.
Identifying an eating disorder can be difficult because everyone is affected differently. People with eating disorders will often deny they have a problem and it can be difficult to approach them about it. Despite this, early identification can play a positive role in how a person recovers.
“I struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life,” Richey said. “I didn’t know it, so I had all these overwhelming emotions that I was burying and [my eating disorder] that’s how I coped.
If a change in eating habits is observed, it is better to act. Skipping meals, refusing to eat certain foods, counting calories, and even excessive exercise can be indicators of an eating disorder.
Asprey urges teens who suspect they or a friend has an eating disorder to contact parents, school nurses or counselors. Asprey advises not to get discouraged if you are unable to help a friend yourself. Sometimes it’s best to get a professional opinion on the problem.
“Sometimes people try to manage [an eating disorder] on their own, but bringing in a professional who has a lot of experience in this area can turn things around much faster,” Asprey said.
Kennedy’s typical approach to concerns about eating disorders is to ask students questions about their eating habits to determine if there is a problem and how to address it. They will encourage students to let them talk to their family so that the student can get professional support from doctors, mental health counselors or health clinics.
Richey reminded students not to feel alone during recovery and to know that there are people who understand what you are going through.
“Don’t be afraid to ask,” Richey said.