Infant feeding (II): Anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
It is essential for health that parents give their children a complete, varied and balanced diet, as well as monitor the possible appearance of eating disorders.
At any time in child development, eating can be a source of conflict, so parents must be vigilant, so as not to incur certain attitudes, sometimes authoritarian and other too complacent, which can perpetuate these disorders over time.
Eating problems that appear in adolescence and that proliferate uncontrollably in our society are of special importance.
“Among these eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia should be noted for their importance.”
Diet in adolescence.
Although it is true that the majority of adolescents in developed countries are well nourished, it is also true that many of them experience periods of excessive or insufficient feeding, or nutritional imbalances.
These alterations can cause damage at any age, but even more so during adolescence, a stage in which the body must have enough nutrients to reach its full growth potential.
Everything related to weight affects the adolescent’s emotional adjustment, the development of their own identity, their self-esteem and their social relationships. In addition, it reinforces the adolescent tendency to experience negative feelings about their body.
“It is in adolescence when the constant concern to be accepted by others appears, as well as a greater sensitivity to the messages that prevail in society, such as being thin.”
This special vulnerability that appears in adolescence was extensively addressed in a previous article, where the causes that influence anorexia nervosa and the most frequent character traits that occur among young anorexic women were analyzed .
This, together with low self-esteem and an inability to solve problems adequately, can determine the appearance of certain eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
We define anorexia nervosa as an eating disorder characterized by voluntarily stopping eating for the sole purpose of losing weight.
In most cases, it affects women between the ages of twelve and nineteen, although it also occurs in male adolescents and adults. For those who want to delve into the subject of anorexia, we refer you to the article: ” Anorexia nervosa: Concept, history and diagnosis “, where this pathology is discussed in depth.
It must be made clear that anorexia is a symptom (it is the medical term that defines the loss of appetite) that appears in multiple diseases, febrile states or periods of stress temporarily.
“On the contrary, anorexia nervosa is a serious disease.”
The latter, anorexia nervosa, is characterized by a significant loss of body weight, induced by the patient, and is accompanied by a severe alteration of the body image that appears distorted.
History of anorexia nervosa.
Although we tend to believe that anorexia nervosa is a disease typical of our civilization and of current times, it is not so, since there are already described cases of anorexia nervosa in classical Greece, in liturgical ceremonials that implied extreme fasting.
In the Middle Ages religious fanaticism gave rise to expressions such as “the holy anorexia.” Through fasting and mortification of the body, ascetics and anchorites sought atonement for sins and the spiritual goods of the afterlife. The Catholic saints are full of illustrious names who lost their lives, exchanging food for holiness.
At the end of the seventeenth century this picture began to be studied as a disease proper. Two cases were described that were diagnosed as “nerve wasting”.
“Nine out of ten patients are women, generally adolescents.”
Regarding the prevalence of the disease, the different authors do not agree. It seems clear that the disease is increasing and has gone from 0.3% of the population, at the end of the last century, to 1% today.
That is, one in every 100 adolescents will develop anorexia nervosa. As for bulimia, the figures are higher. It is estimated that 2.5% of people will develop bulimia at some point in their life.
How to recognize an anorexic adolescent.
- You lose too much weight.
- You have a constant preoccupation with dieting because of the deep fear you feel about gaining weight.
- Use laxatives and diuretics in abundance.
- Increases physical exercise, which can lead to hyperactivity.
- She has a distorted image of her body, looking fat even though she is extremely thin.
- Presents absence of menstruation.
- She is a perfectionist and very demanding of herself.
- You experience strong feelings of loneliness, depression, helplessness, insecurity, and social isolation.
- You have frequent mood swings.
- He lies about what he eats, saying that he has eaten more than he has actually eaten, and may throw away or save the food.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by episodes in which, in a recurrent and uncontrolled way, a large amount of high-calorie foods are consumed in a very short time.
This constant concern about not gaining weight causes vomiting, laxatives and diuretics, and excessive physical exercise behind these binges.
“The bulimic patient, after binge eating, often resorts to inducing vomiting or the use of laxatives.”
Binge eating occurs in periods of stress and is accompanied by anxiety. The mood is depressed. Guilt feelings appear during and after binge eating.
How to recognize a bulimic adolescent.
- His weight is apparently normal, although he can gain weight and lose weight in no time. You are overly concerned about your body image.
- He makes very restrictive diets and there is an increase in the physical exercise he does.
- He binges on food uncontrollably and in secret.
- It causes vomiting.
- Take laxatives and diet pills.
- Presents states of anxiety and restlessness, and depressive feelings.
- Has difficulty establishing social relationships.
How to treat anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia frequently presents bulimic episodes. They are diseases that need medical and psychological intervention. Depending on the patient’s condition, hospital admission will or will not be indicated.
The treatment of these patients must be multidisciplinary: medical, nutritionist and psychological. They often have to be hospitalized. “
Treatment should be aimed at:
- Restore nutritional deficiencies and normal food intake.
- Normalize body image and correct distortions that may be related to eating.
- Teach strategies that help you to be able to cope with stressful situations.
- Improve self-esteem and social and family adaptation.
What can the family do in these cases.
If your child expresses the desire to lose weight, it is important to listen to him. Perhaps he is right and it can be beneficial to lose a few pounds, always under medical supervision.
If you begin to observe the type of behaviors described above in your child, it is essential that you seek professional help immediately, since denying in principle that there may be an eating disorder can worsen the situation.
“It is important to understand that it is a disease, and not stubbornness not to eat.”
Parents should know that it is necessary to follow all professional recommendations, as they will become a fundamental part of the treatment of their own child.
It is important to raise conversation topics that do not have to do exclusively with food or physical appearance.
You will want to avoid critical comments and excessive control over your child.
As a summary on infant feeding.
Perhaps the best we can say, by way of conclusion, about infant feeding is that:
“A complete, varied and balanced diet is essential for health.”
From a young age, you have to teach your child to know how to eat and behave at the table properly. You must learn to enjoy the moments of the meal to interact with the rest of the family.
When you observe anomalies around their diet, it is important to go to a qualified professional.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.