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PADOVA – Following the Covid pandemic, there is a continuous and progressive increase in eating disorders among the youngest. A trend demonstrated by the data photographed yesterday by the professor Angela Favarodirector of the Psychiatry he was born in Regional Center for eating disorders of Padua. In particular, urgent hospitalizations for anorexia nervosa tripled from 2019 to 2022, going from 18 to 76. Equally significant is the growth in requests for help arriving at the Emergency Department, always for anorexia nervosa, up from 20 in 2019 to 70 in 2022. Boom also for the first visits which go from 57 in 2019 to 108 in 2022. «Eating disorders – explains Professor Favaro – are psychiatric disorders that mainly affect young women with high chronicity rates and high levels of mortality. They are also a major cause of disability in young people. With the pandemic, an increase in diagnoses of anorexia nervosa appeared right away, especially among adolescents. We have intercepted an acute case even in a patient of just 12 years. The lockdown and all the changes related to the pandemic have led to general suffering, apparently not reversible: the consequences are even now being felt in the long term”. Changes in routine, school attendance, concerns related to the risk of infection and the death of loved ones, but above all isolation and social networks have influenced the mental health of adolescents. «In a certain sense, a direct comparison with reality and with peers has been lacking: the boys have used social media a lot, where physical comparison is often false and two-dimensional. This at an age where body image is being formed and self-esteem is developing».
The first visits to the Regional Center for Eating Disorders are around 300 a year. «Between 2019 and 2020, the first visits for anorexia nervosa were around 50, practically doubled during the Covid emergency, reaching 108 last year. We have observed a decrease in the age of onset of the disorders: in 2019-20 girls aged between 22 and 24 came to the Center, in 2021 the average age dropped to 20. And the number of first-ever under-18 visits increased significantly in 2021. The Regional Center guarantees treatment on an outpatient basis and semi-residential rehabilitation on a day hospital basis. There are about 3,500 specialist visits a year guaranteed to patients being treated for anorexia nervosa in the hospital. Residential rehabilitation takes place in collaboration with external structures, in agreement, but acute cases are hospitalized in the psychiatry, medicine and child neuropsychiatry departments. In via Giustiniani, with the pandemic, there has been a boom in urgent hospitalizations for anorexia. «If before the pandemic there were hospitalizations for medical complications related to malnutrition for a maximum of 400 days of hospitalization per year, in 2021 the days in hospital were around 1500» specifies the expert.
«The treatment of anorexia nervosa is in successive steps – concludes Favaro – the first is the outpatient level, then we move on to a rehabilitative treatment which can be semi-residential or residential. Besides all that they come guaranteed urgent hospitalizations. We invite parents who notice alarm bells to contact the Centre, there is often a denial of the problem, therefore to hook the youngster it is essential to team up».
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