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In the Media | Increasing Number of Young People are Dealing with Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders among teenagers are spiking with increased reports of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.

The Renfrew Center, which has 19 locations including one in Bethesda, reported a 166% increase in the number of young people calling for help and a 141% increase in the number of family and friends phoning in with questions.

Laurie Wollman, Regional Assistant Vice President of Operations at Renfrew, cited many factors for the increase, some arising due to the pandemic. Social isolation, disruption in structure, lack of groups and clubs for young people to attend, trauma and an increase in use of social media are all factors in the upsurge, she said.

Often, young people, especially girls, focus on their body size and think they are too fat, regardless of their actual size. Anorexia and bulimia are emotional disorders characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat or bouts of overeating followed by self-induced vomiting, purging or fasting.

The earlier someone is treated for overeating or starving themselves, the better. Some signs to look for include

  • Increased focus on body size
  • Changes in eating behaviors such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating in secret and not letting one food touch other foods on the plate
  • Negative self image
  • Mood changes

Wollman suggests when friends or family members suspect a loved one has an eating disorder, they should let that person know they care and want to help. Don’t wait to say something, but be careful not to label foods good or bad and avoid talking about what you think makes for a better looking person.

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