To be woman and teenager are the two main risk factors for suffering a Eating Disorder (TCA). It is one of the conclusions of the annual survey of the Association Against Anorexia and Bulimia (Acab), which shows that more than two thirds of those surveyed want to lose weight (32%) and intend to follow a diet to achieve it (34%). In boys the percentage is reduced to 15 and 22% respectively.
Furthermore, 56% of the girls follow the diets with risky behaviors such as vomiting, skipping meals or eating less, behaviors that are very “dangerous” and “decisive” for suffering from ED. 59% in the case of boys.
Of the total, 4.7% of the people interviewed believe that they may have an eating disorder, 59% are women. The survey, the result of which was presented this Monday on the occasion of the World Day of the fight against eating disorders, has been carried out from September 2019 to March 2020 to 2,400 ESO students from public, concerted and private schools in Catalonia.
«It is more frequent in girls because female beauty model this below what is considered healthy in terms of weight. That makes the girls compare themselves with that model and carry out these risky behaviors “such as stopping eating, purging behaviors or excessive physical exercise, explains Sara Bujalance, general director and psychologist at Acab.
In addition, since these types of disorders are very related to self-esteem, the survey asks about teasing and criticism from peers. 42% have received them and the majority, 76%, have been in relation to their physique. In this regard, the confinement may have been positive. “School bullying has become virtual and confinement has protected them from attacks they receive in person,” says Bujalance.
ED in children 9 and 10 years old
Apart from the coronavirus pandemic, the data warn of the appearance of TCA in ever younger ages. «The age group in which the disorder begins has increased. Before I was 12 years old and now there are already boys and girls with 9 and 10 years who suffer from it, ”says Bujalance.
According to the expert, this fact is due to two main factors: early access to the internet, which causes the use of social networks, and the adultery of childhood. “Girls clothes are not so much for girls, but women’s clothes for little girls. Childhood is being sexualized and, therefore, we are entering adolescence earlier », he explains.
The alarm signals don’t change depending on the age. They highlight low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, an altered mood, more irritability, restricting food more and more, weight loss, difficulty growing as it should, a lot of physical activity and purgative behaviors may already appear.
The “devastating” effect of the pandemic
In general, the pandemic has been “Devastating” for people with eating disorders. Since March to June of this 2020, a period in which the population was confined in Spain, has triplicate the number of requests for help from the association compared to last year’s figures.
With the flexibility of the measures, the situation improved, but still between June and November, twice of requests compared to the same period in 2019. In gross terms, last year it received 1,950 requests for aid, while this 2020 they expect to close the year with 5,000. 90% of the cases are women.
In the words of Bujalance, «for a person with TAC the fact of being at home and not being able to move is a highly stressful situation, hell. That is why the need to not eat food increases to avoid taking calories, to do more physical activity, their irritability soars … ».
The expert points out that, at least in the cases of Ahab, the pandemic has not caused many relapses of people that had exceeded eating disorders, but it has been noted in those patients who were in full treatment or have started during the pandemic. In this sense, he assures that “it is being a challenge”, since “a part prior to treatment is necessary” which is better if it is in person.