LN – Eating disorders, addictions and other pictures aggravated by confinement

Luz is 40 years old and remembers that it was at 9 when she began to realize that her body was “different” from that of most of her friends.

“I was fatter and suffered a lot of bullying. My first diet, super strict, was at 12,” she says.

. Since then, she has struggled every day against her eating disorder, which is

from diets to binge eating

. She has been doing intensive work for a year with a nutritionist, a psychologist and a psychiatrist, with whom she feels very contained. However, in

full quarantine

for him


had a relapse.

“The running of the bulls is the perfect nest for eating disorders. Being locked up in your house, with the fridge and cupboards full of food, is a lot.

I feel a situation of total danger, I am afraid all the time and I ask my daughter to hide, for example, the packages of cookies

“says Luz, who two weeks ago could not overcome the anguish of isolation and had a new binge. Many times, Luz gets up in the middle of the night feeling that” a monster “wakes up in her stomach and eats the most calories she finds, from some sweets to a whole cake. That was what happened to him days ago. “Every binge is a very big frustration from the emotional point of view,” he laments.

The running of the bulls is the perfect nest for eating disorders. Being locked up in your house, with the fridge and the cabinets full of food is a lot


Like her,

There are many patients with an eating disorder or problematic consumption -from alcohol to the excessive use of technology- for whom, according to specialists, the quarantine involved moving back one or more boxes in their recovery.

Even as anxiety and stress levels increased considerably, isolation made others more vulnerable who, although they did not have a previous pathology, were “on the edge”.

According to a recent survey carried out by the Observatory of Addictions and Problematic Consumptions of the Ombudsman of the province of Buenos Aires,

21% of people who consumed alcohol, tobacco, antidepressants and anxiolytics since before quarantine, acknowledged having increased this practice in recent weeks.

The highest figures are found among those who consume alcohol (36.5%) and tobacco (40%), followed by antidepressants or anxiolytics (10.1%).

Juana Pouisis, a psychiatrist and specialist in eating disorders, explains that the quarantine is in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

messed up routines

like those linked to sleep and food.

Excessive free time cut “escape channels” from patients for whom,

for example, exercising was a fundamental part of his recovery, and ”

He limited contact with family or friends who made up his containment network. ”

According to the psychiatrist and author of the book

New eating disorders,

in general, those who underwent treatment for having or having such a disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse or pathological gambling,

“They developed routines that have to do with the outside, exercising and the social, displaying skills that in a confinement situation become difficult to implement.”

On the other hand, he warns: “What is most seen at the moment, especially in people who were not diagnosed because they were unaware that they had a pathology -such as those who exercise excessively or eat obsessively healthy- is

an increase in anxiety, discomfort, irritability and excessive fear of gaining weight

Most vulnerable

For the psychiatrist Silvia Ongini, preventive social isolation, on the one hand,

it amplified “the prior vulnerability” of many people.

On the other, it raises the alarm level for all of us. “We are under an invisible threat, stressed, threatened and with our resources and coping strategies in check. Above, isolated from the other.

There is a reality: loneliness increases any suffering “,

points out.

We are under an invisible threat, stressed, threatened and with our resources and coping strategies in check

Silvia Ongini

Javier Urra, a psychologist and member of the Spanish Academy of Psychology, talks about “shortcuts” in these confined times. ”

One of them is alcohol or the consumption of other drugs to alienate oneself, not to think, not to feel, not to suffer. ”

For the specialist, one of the key words in this context is self-control: “Taking care of yourself and preventing is essential. As soon as you take a path that you can see could be dangerous, you have to stop dead or ask for help ”

Along these lines, the director of the Toxicology Unit of the Fernández Hospital and the scientific director of the

Children without Toxics Foundation (Fundartox),

Carlos Damin focuses on the fact that there are many people who are experiencing isolation in a more complex way than others. “In the case of those who had previous problematic consumption, they are under much more pressure.

There is an increase in the consumption of psychotropic drugs, such as hypnotics and anxiolytics, and also of alcohol

“The specialist points out. He continues:” We are hearing from people who out there did not have a problematic consumption, but are increasing it and that use, which was not an abuse, may be becoming such. ”

The doctor considers that, in the current context,

it is important for the family to contain and avoid conflict.

“We have to be aware that many times families are not used to full coexistence, except on vacation. So, the escape routes such as watching a series or reading a book, many times they are not enough and there are friction, fights , conflicts.

Substance use is never a help, it always makes situations worse

Damin emphasizes.

Another of the edges that specialists detected from the first days of quarantine was an increase in the cases of those who considered themselves “social takers”, but who began to drink alone during isolation and more than was recommended.

“Many say:

“I take a bottle at night to go to sleep quietly and go through this.”

But in some cases, those behaviors that are used as emotional regulators can trigger a pathology or exacerbate depressive symptoms, “emphasizes Pouisis.

That happened to Fernanda, who is 35 years old, is Argentine and has been living in Madrid for six months, where she moved for work with her partner. Like Luz, she has also been dealing with eating disorders for years.

But also, in the last days and in the context of the quarantine, alcohol consumption increased.

“It is not that I am drunk all day, but I take a lot and at most. One of my biggest problems with this pathology is that

I work from home and I am alone for many hours.

This situation does not help.

I spend eating and pecking.

What I used to do to avoid being alone all the time was to go to a cafe or a bar, “says Fernanda.

However, the isolation and the inability to go to the gym or go running in the park – which for her were other discharge activities -, made her increasingly vulnerable.

“The other big problem was the large amount of food and drink. I, because of my binge eating,

I always tried to avoid having the fridge full.

But in this context, the temptation is much more complex. I was always allowed for alcohol, like having an aperitif in the afternoon, but now instead of two or three glasses it can be a bottle. In my case, the running of the bulls caused more lack of control “, describes Fernanda.

I always gave myself alcohol, but now instead of two or three glasses, it can be a bottle. In my case, the running of the bulls caused more lack of control


He says that in a day he opens the fridge 70 times and his will to say no is diminished. ”

I am my worst enemy because I am the one who opens a bottle or buys the chocolates.

As much as I ask my boyfriend to hide them from me, then I go and buy more. I don’t have the will to quit today and alcohol is my moment of relaxation, of liberation, “says Fernanda.” What I seek all the time, “he says,” is justify myself or surround myself with comments from people who do the same. ”

Multiple challenges

Quarantine involves multiple challenges for families who have a member with an eating disorder.

Abril’s parents, 18 years old, say that she was always “a happy girl, with many friends, a good student, an athlete and with a healthy lifestyle.” A year and a half ago, in addition to playing sports, he started going to a gym. “He progressively intensified his training, even adding physical routines in his room. Until then we had not noticed anything strange,” his parents recall.

“However, at the time, he stopped eating meat and, unknowingly, skipped some meals. It was a very quick process. In a few months, he went from eating normally to stopping eating,” they add.

The teenager entered a spiral of weight loss that accelerated: she increased food restrictions, she exercised more, her mood worsened and she no longer wanted to socialize.

It was a very fast process. Within a few months, she went from eating normally to stopping eating.

Dads of April, 18 years old

In the first consultation they made, the specialist explained that her daughter had anorexia. Accompanying her in her recovery was a long journey that, with advances and setbacks, continues to this day. It is a disease in which the patient needs a routine of schedules, mainly in meals and sleep, as well as time to see his friends and do activities that take the focus off his physical appearance. “In quarantine, all this it’s very difficult to control, “say the parents of April.

The family organized a routine to share breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever possible, while respecting the spaces of all members of the household. “We tried to have fresh and healthy food available in greater quantity and to reserve the most tempting for some occasions. On the other hand, at the beginning we were very attentive to the news about the advance of the pandemic, but we realized that this was not good since it generates more anxiety, so

we talk only what is necessary and we try to do different things together, like playing cards or doing puzzles ”

, indicate the parents.

What worries them most is a possible relapse. “We feel that the progress he has made is affected.

She lost the routine of going for a walk, which made her feel good, they argue. She has no social gatherings, going out with lunches, dinners or snacks where she was exercising her relationship with food while socializing. Nor could he start college. Luckily, he has therapy via video calls. ”

Pinned to the screens

From tablets to cell phones, during the quarantine the time spent on screens multiplied in the homes of the country and the world. Although many of the activities that these devices offer are beneficial to lower anxiety levels, study, exercise and occupy free time,

the risk in those who suffer a techno addiction was increased.

Laura Jurkowski, psychologist and director of


, a center specialized in the treatment of these pathologies, points out:

“With isolation, what we see is that those who had these pre-existing problems intensify. In general, people with an addiction find it difficult to register the problem and it is the context, such as family or friends, that helps or push to do something different and make a change. ”

In these circumstances, says Jurkowski, many of the tools and resources that are used in normal times are not there.

People with an addiction to technology tend to isolate themselves, not to leave their homes and not to do other activities off the screen.

“Right now, you have to be more creative: the goal is that they can search for valid resources”

, explains Jurkowski, author of

Screen effect.

How to achieve digital balance.

According to specialists, addiction to technology generates, in the long term, consequences similar to drug and alcohol abuse: it affects daily life, obligations, interpersonal ties, concentration and health.

Jurkowski clarifies that not anyone who uses technology intensively or excessively becomes addicted: ”

People who have an addiction use it as a way to escape a problem, instead of recording that distress and seeing how to deal with it, they fill a void.

In general they are vulnerable, impulsive people, who find it difficult to regulate their emotions and the way they find it is through consumption. ”

Where to ask for help

  • Toxicology Unit of the Fernández Hospital:

    They provide telephone attention at (011) 4808-2655 or 4801-7767.
  • Fundartox

    It is dedicated to the promotion, prevention, diagnosis, assistance, teaching and research related to toxicology.
  • The little house

    provides care and prevention of eating disorders.
  • Reconnect

    offers technology addiction treatment.
  • Compulsive Eaters Anonymous

    : It is a non-profit brotherhood that is intended to respond to those who have an obsession or compulsion to food. The organization is governed by a 12-step scheme, as are Alcoholics Anonymous and other self-help groups. In Argentina, it has been operating for more than two decades and has a presence in CABA, Greater Buenos Aires and Córdoba, as well as other Skype groups throughout the country. Provide free and confidential assistance.



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