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Anorexia and bulimia, the challenge of early identification


Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder… The deleterious effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and periods of confinement continue to be felt on mental health, in particular eating disorders (TCA). They have increased sharply since 2019, according to several international publications. A study conducted by the team of Pierre Déchelotte, head of the nutrition department at Rouen University Hospital, with 8,900 students, published in Nutrition and metabolism, in February 2022, showed a doubling of ED prevalence between 2009 and 2021.

“Clinically, we are still at the top of the wave. It doesn’t seem to be stabilizing.”, notes Nathalie Godart, president of the French Federation Anorexia Bulimia (FFAB) and child psychiatrist at the Health Foundation of the students of France. Above all, the serious forms have increased.

Nearly one million people in France suffer from characterized TCA, according to data from the FFAB, resulting from a synthesis of the international literature. This is a low estimate. If we take into account the so-called “non-specific” disorders – that is to say disturbances in eating behavior that do not meet all the diagnostic criteria –, 20% of women are affected and 15% of men. Among these, certain behaviors consisting of a restriction and/or avoidance of certain foods that can go as far as total aphagia in the most severe cases, as sometimes in emetophobia (fear of vomiting) or phagophobia ( fear of choking while eating). “They can have serious consequences related to malnutrition, as in early-onset anorexia nervosa”notes Coline Stordeur, head of the restrictive TCA center for children at the Robert-Debré hospital (AP-HP).

“Destigmatize the people who suffer from it”

“EDs are severe conditions, poorly understood, too little detected”alerts the FFAB, on the occasion of World CAW Day, Friday June 2, whose theme is “Free the Word”in order to underline the crucial role of the entourage. “More than half of these people do not have access to specialized care, due to a lack of effective identification and insufficient medical supply”continues the federation.

“To talk about it is to make people aware of eating disorders, to de-stigmatize the people who suffer from it, so that they can open up about it, and say that aids and treatments exist »insists Professor Godart, because, like many psychiatric illnesses, the earlier people are taken care of, the faster the recovery.

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