Endless hunger

By Audrey SomnardAnouk Flesch Switch to French for original article

Left on their own, faced with their anxieties, teenagers did not cope well with the lockdown. Some have developed pathological obsessions with food. The child psychiatry department has been more than full since last year with adolescents who have to relearn how to eat.

The psychological consequences of the pandemic, especially for young people, are not yet known, but the juvenile psychiatry service in Esch-sur-Alzette is still full. The waiting list for young people with eating disorders has grown with the 2020 lockdowns. "People are arriving sicker than before and the peak of the psychological effects of this pandemic has not yet arrived", explains Dr. Salima Aarab, psychiatrist and head of the service.  

A slender young girl arrives for our interview. Her piercing blue eyes are nicely made up with eyeliner, a tight summer top, her too big pants are tightened by a belt to the maximum. Nathalie* accepted to tell her story, as she hopes to leave the center this summer, after many months of therapy and care, she who weighed 35kg when she arrived. The young girl readily admits that her relationship with food was already a bit complicated, but the lockdown was the trigger.

At first, a fitness program

Alone at home, with her parents still at their respective places of work, Nathalie followed her brother into the gym sessions. The latter wanted to gain muscle and what started out as a fitness program quickly got out of hand. "At first I gained muscle but quickly I tried to lose weight. Gradually it became a real experiment with my own body, I wanted to lose as much as possible", she says. When she returned to school after the first lockdown, she started to eat outside, then with the summer vacations, the weight loss spiral started again and it began to show: "I lied to my parents saying that I wasn't hungry, that I had eaten lunch, etc. I counted everything, the calories, the weight of the portions which were already tiny", she literally starved herself.

However, her mother was not fooled: "It started with sports because the clubs were closed, that's a good idea. Then she started looking at the calories on the packages, I told her she didn't need that… But she continued first by eating only very healthy foods, then by cutting her portions smaller and smaller into tiny pieces. That's when I realized something was wrong."

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