"The coronavirus epidemic has brought with it a dramatic increase in the number of teenagers who suffer from eating disorders," warned Yoav Laron, director of the eating disorders unit of Clalit Health Services in the Haifa and Western Galilee district.
According to him, data collected in Israel and the Western world indicates an increase of about 100%-150% in the proportion of teenagers who turn to clinics and inpatient wards that specialize in eating disorders."The reasons for this increase are many and varied, such as, for example, social isolation, an increase in the level of stress and tension, disruption of the routine, gaining a sense of control through the eating disorder, and increased exposure to screens," he explained.
What has caused an increase in disordered eating?
According to Laron, one of the main reasons for the spike in eating disorders is related to the increased exposure to screens during the coronavirus and the digital world in which we live even now, which poses complex challenges to teenagers and their parents, especially when teenagers go on summer vacation.
"As teenagers' screen time increases, so does their exposure to body representations that do not faithfully represent reality," he noted, clarifying, "The disorder is recognized between genders, but at the same time, the issue is much more common among girls."
He further explained that in the digital world of social media (television, cinema, TikTok, etc.) there are few teenage girls and women who are not extraordinarily skinny or physically fit.
"The news anchors, leading actresses in series, and network stars will almost without exception have a thin body type. In this way, watching a lot of screens is a kind of brainwashing that establishes in their minds the internal model that thin is beautiful and that any other body type is abnormal and inappropriate," he says.
He recommends sharpening the role of parents at the beginning of the long holiday. At young ages and at the beginning of puberty, it is definitely recommended to reduce children's screen time and monitor the content they watch. As the children grow older, it's worth starting to convey to them the hidden messages found in the digital content," he says.
He emphasized that in any case there is a crucial importance for early diagnosis of the eating disorder and referral to the appropriate professionals. "Early therapeutic intervention prevents irreversible damage, and reduces the risk of developing a chronic disease and the risk of death," he warns.