The worrying explosion of cases of eating disorders among younger and younger children

The worrying explosion of cases of eating disorders among younger and younger children

Among the consequences of the pandemic on mental health, some experts report an increase in cases of eating disorders. Are confinements to blame? Update with Dr Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist in Paris.

Anorexia, bulimia, hyperphagia… There are many eating disorders. Have the Covid pandemic and confinements accentuated these problems among young people? The point of view of our expert, Dr Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist in Paris and author of Teenagers, the decoderpublished by Leduc.

An increase of 416% among boys!

Published last December, a Canadian study published in the journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) shows a significant increase in eating disorders among adolescents in Ontario, between 2002 and 2019.

Very worrying, the researchers’ conclusions note a 139% increase in EDs among adolescents aged 5 to 17, and more particularly an increase of 416% among boys. Generally speaking, the same increase has been observed in studies published on other populations, notably Norwegian, American and English.

Questioned, Dr Stéphane Clerget notes the same thing in Europe. “THE eating disorders among young people have increased in Europe too and this is not just since the Covid crisis, even if it may have made things worse. The number of children affected and the demand for consultation had increased previously, already”.

It also confirms the fact that boys are increasingly affected by these disorders. “What was previously characterized as female disorders now affects more and more boys“.

Different possible causes for this increase in TCC

According to the doctor, this increase in eating disorders can be explained by several factors. “There is a link with the number of cases of precocious puberty, which leads young people to enter adolescence earlier and to be confronted with the eating disorders associated with it at a younger age.. Dr Clerget also points out the training given to young people to “eat well”.

Sometimes, from primary school, we teach children the constituents of foods, not to eat too fatty, too salty or too sweet. For some children, this can constitute a sort of ‘pressure’ in terms of eating”. Not to mention the pressure put on by some parents this time, who struggle not to let their children eat candy or drink soda. “It is sometimes also the dietary rigor that some parents impose on their children that pushes them into a sort of food obsession.”

Hyperphagia or food orthorexia, the main disorders observed

Orthorexia, or eating in the healthiest way possible, is therefore one of the eating disorders developed by young people. “This can concern children from the age of eight” indicates the expert. “They have a fear of gaining weight and an obsession with ‘eating healthy'”.

The other related disorder that also develops is hyperphagia. “In this case, young people instead eat foods they like, but without hunger. There is a kind of void to fill, which is done by filling with food” further describes the specialist, who underlines the difficulty of caring for the youngest.

“With adolescents, psychopathology, the therapies and medications that work are well known. For younger children, the management of these disorders is more complicated” he concludes.