MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Eating disorders in adolescents have continued to surge throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly doubling since 2019, health officials report on Tuesday.
Dr. Paula Cody, UW Health adolescent medicine specialist, explained that it is important for parents to look for warning signs in adolescents when it comes to these disorders.
While doctors say there are multiple factors that contribute to eating disorders in teens, one common response is using food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress.
“With this increased stress, some people have unhealthy coping mechanisms and they feel that things are out of control and what they put in their bodies, what they eat and how much they exercise is something they can control,” explained Dr. Cody.
Other reasons for the upward trend include that teens have not been able to participate in school and other activities in the same way since before the pandemic, which could enable them to focus their energy on “getting healthy” and taking it too far. Dr. Cody also stated that increased screen time can contribute to fixating on social media photos with images that are edited to create an unrealistic body image.
Dr. Cody recommended that families have meals together and talk about healthy ways to approach nutrition. Parents should also look for warning signs in their child such as a change in eating habits, a teen eating alone, or not eating food they normally enjoy.
As a parent or a friend, UW Health also advises that people do not talk about their own weight or dieting, do not comment on other people’s weight or looks, and do focus on factors other than appearance when giving compliments.
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