Anorexia in children and teens is rising rapidly – what parents need to know now

The corona pandemic is not only driving up occupancy rates in intensive care units. Referrals to child and adolescent psychiatry are also at an all-time high. There is a particularly sharp rise in the number of people suffering from eating disorders, with anorexia in the lead.

Why this is so and what alarm signals parents should look out for, explains Dr. Andries Korebrits, Head Physician of the Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at Helios Park-Klinikum Leipzig.

Causes of anorexia


young girl looks at cell phone


While the reasons for the increasingly common occurrence of anorexia are varied – they are often related to the corona pandemic. "In the lockdown and during the school closures, the children were missing their Familiar and supportive daily and weekly structure", says Dr. Andries Korebrits. The absence of the usual daily routine is compounded by the absence of social contacts.

In addition, the children have to get used to a new daily routine: Many are either at home all day with their parents due to homeschooling and home office – or alone the entire day until they come home from work in the evening. "In the pandemic, the children and adolescents then also have more time on social media like Instagram or Snapchat spent. They think the images they see there are reality and don't think about the fact that often Filters used are being affected," says the expert.

The beginning of the Anorexia often coincides with puberty – a time when children become more independent and develop their personality. Enduring hunger is perceived as "cool". And the lost kilograms on the scales show the adolescents that they have control over themselves. "The lack of social contact favors the development of anorexia, because a Important corrective no longer present is," says Dr. Korebrits. Conversely, the return to supposedly normal life after the summer vacations also has an impact: "The children had an immense need to catch up after the summer break. Basically, they are missing a year and a half of social and academic development. Catching up on social and academic skills now, creates stress for them."


Anorexia in children and teens is rising rapidly - what parents need to know now


Basically, the children and adolescents are missing a year and a half of social and academic development. Catching up on social and academic skills now creates stress for them.

Dr. Andries Korebrits, head physician at the Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy | Helios Park-Klinikum Leipzig

Diseases increasingly earlier and more severe

Younger and younger children are also affected. "In the meantime, we treat many 13- and 14-year-olds, that with partly Very severe manifestations the anorexiacs are referred to us."Medically, anorexia is considered severe when sufferers have a body mass index (BMI) that falls below the 3rd percentile lies.

Translated, that means they are lighter than 97 percent of all other children and adolescents. "More and more very, very sick girls are coming to us whose BMI is below the 1s or even 0.5s percentile. As a rule, they are so emaciated and debilitated that they can hardly walk ten meters or can only lie in bed," says Dr. Andries Korebrits.

Alarm signals of an eating disorder for parents


young girl in wide brown hoodie


But how can parents recognize the danger of anorexia in time? In principle applies: An Essstorung has many faces. Carries the child only still wide clothes, under which the figure can be easily hidden, and if the parents no longer see it in underwear in the bathroom, this can already be a first hint. Not uncommon sufferers lose weight very rapidly at the beginning, two to three kilograms per week are no exception. If there is always a sour smell in the bathroom, this indicates that the Child vomiting. "Often parents can also Change of character determine, for example a social withdrawal. The children and young people then even break off contact with their best friend. Often they also get into a depressive phase or react increasingly emotionless", says the Leipzig chief physician. And eating behavior changes, too: Anorexics eat smaller and smaller portions, fat things remain on the plate, it is read proverbially only the peas from the meal. "Many also begin to have, counting calories or becoming extremely preoccupied with food and literally scanning packages." Shared meals are avoided, then they often say: 'I've already eaten at school or somewhere else."

According to Korebrits, the best way to detect anorexia in its infancy, or even prevent it, is for parents to always remain in conversation with their children. "If you notice the first signs of an eating disorder, you can talk quite openly with your child about the fact that you are worried about them. The same applies to media consumption." Prohibitions find the chief physician difficult, because they a Spiral of conflict can produce. Never losing close contact with the child, on the other hand, is one of the most important hand.

Anorexia therapy must be intentional


Thin girl in black leggings


The treatment an anorexia is at the beginning above all one: A lot of convincing. "Most people underestimate the fact that life-threatening disease acts. In the clinic, we first have to convey the seriousness of the situation in order to win the female patients over to therapy."If the anorexia is far advanced, first the body must be healthy. To achieve this, the calories are gradually increased, 200 to 300 grams of weight gain per week are the goal. The body, which is usually very weak, would not be able to cope with more. "We also often have to negotiate this seemingly small weight gain with our patients. They to join in to move, but is the most important therapy step", says Dr. Korebrits.

If the girls have significantly increased their weight, they should learn to manage their body again to accept. Sports and exercise therapy, occupational therapy, art therapy or behavioral and talk therapy can help here. "The children and adolescents take advantage of these offers in groups or individually. The more stable her body weight, the more we can involve her in the therapy program and the more structured her week is. This is extremely important for them," said the chief physician.

return to everyday life without blame

And what happens after the stay in the clinic?? When the children and adolescents return to their familiar surroundings and their old school, one thing above all is important: that this without reproaches and recriminations happens. "Especially meals together are in the families over a long time very loaded been. Now everyone has to slowly get back into the swing of things," says Dr. Andries Korebrits. The families receive assistance by a physician or psychologist of the institute ambulance or also the established psychologist or psychiatrist, who accompany the return into the everyday life.

bridge waiting periods for therapy


Family eats lunch at the table


What advice does the expert give to parents who fear anorexia in their child – but can't get a therapy place? "In the beginning, it is important that at the family doctor or pediatrician a Organic cause for weight loss ruled out will", says Dr. Korebrits. If this happens, the parents should Check the child's weight once a week, to detect severe weight loss at an early stage. "In addition, in the beginning Nutritional counseling centers be helpful if no therapy place is available in the near future," advises the head physician.

It is also important to no guilt in the situation. Instead, parents should accompany the child lovingly, share their own concerns about eating behavior and, if possible, eat together with the child. If the child nevertheless loses weight rapidly, the following applies: parents should not shy away from going to the pediatrician or to the clinic. Because in the end remains Anorexia a life-threatening disease.

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