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Growing concerns about kids and eating disorders during the pandemic

Teens' mental health continues to be a concern amid pandemic
Posted at 5:15 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 10:03:14-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — There's a new concern emerging among some pediatricians and health officials. School closures plus a freeze on many organized sports could send kids on a downward health spiral. 13 Action News Anchor Tricia Kean looks at how COVID-19 could be fueling bad eating habits and what you need to know to help your kids Rebound.

MY FRIENDS WERE ALL SKINNY

"I just wouldn't eat for a few days," said 18-year-old Emma.

She knows all about the stress of trying to stay fit.

"My friends were all like the skinny ones and I was the one with baby fat or I was the chunky one. So it was just easier to do that instead of exercise," said Emma.

VICTIM TO BODY COMPARISON

Unfortunately, she didn't handle it well and suffered the consequences.

"I would get all shaky and weak... Definitely headaches," said Emma.

"It's important to not become a victim to body comparison," said Joanna O'Neill, executive clinical director of the Las Vegas Eden Treatment Center for Eating Disorders.

SOCIAL MEDIA & UNRELIABLE SOURCES

She says it's far too easy for kids and teens to fall into the trap of bad dieting and anorexia and bulimia are real threats.

Especially since kids are home all day, typically spending more time online.

"Many individuals are relying on social media and other unreliable sources for information," said Joanna.

It's an issue heightened by an increase in depression and anxiety health professionals are seeing among kids and teens during the pandemic.

These unchecked emotions are also leading to binge eating, which is notably dangerous due to a lack of activities and school sports.

LOOK FOR THE SIGNS

To help protect your children, look for these signs:

First, are they experiencing extreme weight loss or weight gain?

Are they frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat? Or maybe they're eating abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting.

Be sure to also look at their behavior away from the table.

"Are they isolating from family and friends? Spending a lot of time in that room?" said Joanna.

"[Are they] spending a lot of time again on social media and just not really connecting the way they used to with other people?"

DON'T KNOW WHERE TO TURN

Joanna says don't be afraid to seek professional help if some of the signs are there.

"A lot of times parents don't even know what to do when they do find out. They don't know who to turn to," said Joanna.

The National Eating Disorders Association is a great place to go for support and resources. Also, be sure to keep the lines of communication open with your child.

YOU'RE NOT ALONE

"Coming from a sense of just curiosity, love and support and wanting to help your teen. Instead of, 'you're in trouble,'" said Joanna.

She says it's important to remind your child that what they're feeling is normal. Emma agrees and says she knows it's an issue facing many teens.

"You're not alone... So many people feel insecure and alone. But all you really need is just to talk to someone," said Emma.

If you need someone to speak with, call The National Eating Disorders Association helpline Monday through Friday at (800) 931-2237.