Life Style

Anorexia, bulimia: the signals that should alert



“You are too fat. “ Here is the little sentence that made Marine Noret fall into anorexia-bulimia at the age of 16. The young girl, weakened by the divorce of her parents and a case of harassment while she was in college, is then slightly overweight. His relatives keep telling him to be careful, to reduce the quantities … The derogatory remark of her boyfriend about her curves, even as he leaves her, is the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The teenager has only one idea in mind: to lose weight. A gastroenteritis makes him foresee a formidably effective means: to make himself vomit.

The first pounds lost lead, paradoxically, to her mother’s congratulations, delighted that she “Take charge”, without imagining the vicious circle in which the teenager is locking herself. “I set myself goals that were always more difficult to achieve, thinking that afterwards I would be able to stop. In a few months, I was no longer controlling anything ”, says Marine Noret. For almost a year, no one noticed his discomfort. “I took great pleasure in cooking monstrous desserts for others, looking at photos of gastronomy on Instagram. I ate by substitution ”, she remembers.

→ TESTIMONIALS. How they supported an anorexic child

Alerted by her thinness and obsessive rituals (“I weighed myself several times a day, I counted each green bean on my plate…”), his grandmother ended up taking him to the general practitioner. A few days later, the young girl was hospitalized: she then weighed 36.5 kg for 1.60 m. Barely the weight of a child. Seven years later, Marine Noret, who testifies in a courageous book (1), says she has found a normal life, even if she still maintains a complicated relationship with food, her ” Achilles’ heel “.

“Waiting lists are growing”

Marine’s case is far from isolated: in France, more than 600,000 adolescents and young adults suffer from an eating disorder (PDD). Child psychiatrist Nathalie Godart, president of the French Anorexia Bulimia Federation (2), has seen the number of requests for support explode for a year. “The sector was already saturated upstream, she laments. The health crisis has hampered access to healthcare. As a result, waiting lists are growing and we are seeing many more serious cases, young people arriving for consultation in a situation of vital risk. “

The anxiety generated by the pandemic constitutes a breeding ground for the appearance and worsening of TCA, the causes of which are multiple, both genetic and environmental. “Any source of major stress in the life of an individual from birth, from a pathological pregnancy to an emotional breakdown or sexual assault, can contribute to triggering them”, decrypts Nathalie Godart. Omnipresent in the lives of adolescents, social networks, factors of psychological and bodily dissatisfaction, also help to promote the development of these diseases, by weakening self-esteem.

→ REPORT. Eating disorders: at the Béthanie clinic, long-term monitoring of young adults

“We often associate anorexia nervosa with the image of a young girl in search of perfection, intellectually brilliant, from a privileged background, but this is only part of our patients”, specifies the child psychiatrist, who observes these disorders in all social and cultural environments. The current distrust of food, the obsession with ” Eat healthy “ and the fashion for special diets (vegetarian, sugar-free, etc.) makes detection complex for those around them and for general practitioners, who sometimes have little knowledge of these pathologies.

Pay attention to changes in attitude

Fortunately, all the teenagers concerned about their line or followers of veganism do not sink into anorexia nervosa or bulimia. At an age when the child becomes independent, when family relations can be strained, detecting the disorder requires a certain finesse of perception from relatives. “Often parents do not understand what is happening to them: they have the impression that the disease comes all at once. Sometimes the weight loss is so gradual, so well concealed, that they realize it at an advanced stage. Some are in denial because mental illnesses are a source of shame and guilt ”, notes Danielle Castellotti, president of the National Federation of Associations linked to eating disorders and of the Sandrine-Castellotti Foundation, created in memory of her anorexic daughter.

Within the Le Mans hospital center as well as at the Maison des ados de la Sarthe, where she has just opened a specific consultation called TCAdos, psychiatrist Irène Jagot-Lacoussière ensures that the entire family, including siblings, is included in the program. care pathway, in particular through family therapy. “Above all, we must not trivialize the problem. It is not a teenager’s whim that will pass as he grows up ”, she insists, especially since the earlier the treatment, the better the prognosis for recovery. When the first symptoms appear, the disorder is not fixed and there are no deleterious health consequences yet.

→ MAINTENANCE. Eating disorders: “You must avoid forcing your child to eat”

The warning signals are varied: the desire to go on a diet and the assiduous consultation of dietetics sites, sudden weight variations and growth stoppages, the elimination of entire categories of food (protein, fat, sugar) , the monitoring of cooking methods, the avoidance of family meals, excessive sport, the drop in school results or on the contrary overinvestment, social isolation … “You have to be attentive to changes in attitude, to changes in the trajectory, and to give yourself the opportunity to observe your child”, specifies Nathalie Godart, who recommends, for example, to (re) lay down rules such as eating with the family. If you are worried, getting information from associations or consulting a professional will remove the doubt.

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Eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by dietary restriction (sometimes accompanied by induced vomiting, physical hyperactivity, etc.) which leads to significant weight loss and an end to periods.

Bulimia associates excessive food intake with compensatory measures: intensive sport, vomiting, etc. Initially, maintaining a normal weight makes the disease difficult to detect.

In binge eating disorder, the massive ingestions are not compensated for and the person often becomes obese.

Quite widespread disorders. Anorexia nervosa affects between 1 and 2% of young women aged 12 to 35, bulimia from 1 to 3% and binge eating disorder from 3 to 5%. The age of onset of the disease varies according to the disorder: on average between 14 and 17 years (but sometimes as early as 8 years) for anorexia, 17-18 years for bulimia and 20-23 years for overeating.

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