12 signs to spot an eating disorder at school

Eating disorders (ED) are characterized by pathological behavior towards food intake and an obsession with weight control.

Metaphorically, we could describe them as a tree; the top of the tree and the trunk would be the symptoms, which we can see from the outside for the behavior and behaviors: obsession with weight, dietary restriction, excessive exercise, purging, over-consumption, etc.

The invisible part, the roots, are unmanaged or unexpressed feelings and emotions as well as beliefs and thoughts about oneself and what surrounds it. It is precisely what lies beneath the basement that causes the mess.

During treatment, it is important to explore and work both on the behaviors and behaviors observed (symptoms) and on the deepest roots (actual needs, operating system, beliefs, feelings, emotions).

For this, it is important to detect the problem as early as possible, especially if the problem arises in adolescence, a period of greater vulnerability and lack of resources to solve this problem without help; so here we will see the main warning signs to detect an eating disorder in the school stage, Especially useful for teachers.

    Signs that can be used to detect an ACT in the school stage

    ADD has a multicausal origin, so behind their appearance there is no single explanation, several biological, psychological, family and socio-cultural factors can be intertwined. What is really known about the onset of the disorder is that in most cases there is a belief in starting a diet to improve self-image and feel better.

    It has been observed for decades that the percentage of the population affected by eating disorders (ADD) is increasing. Although previously thought to affect almost exclusively women between the ages of 14 and 25, they are increasingly prevalent in the male population as well as among school-aged children and adults.

    Detect an eating disorder in school-aged children as early as possible, pay attention to the following warning signs to react in time.

    • Increased irritability and emotional instability.
    • Tendency to isolation and diminished relations with the peer group.
    • Decreased concentration and academic performance.
    • Apparent increase in study hours and increase in “useful” activities.
    • High requirement, perfection and rigidity.
    • More and more comments on weight and physique.
    • Unjustified weight loss or cessation of weight gain.
    • Wear clothes that are too loose or too warm to try to hide your body.
    • Unjustified restriction of food. For example, ordering less food frequently in the dining room.
    • Strange eating behavior, such as removing or throwing food off the plate, food preferences alone.
    • Increased physical activity at leisure or in sports activities showing nervousness if not running.
    • Initiation of impulsive attitudes linked to the acceptance of rules or limits: speaking badly to monitors, teachers or classmates when it has never been like that before, etc.

    What to do?

    When we suspect a possible eating disorder in school, it is advisable to follow these guidelines. A teacher who suspects that a student in the class or school has ADD can collaborate by following the steps below:

    Share our doubts with the rest of the teaching staff to assess the case

    If you suspect it, you should talk to the psychologist or counselor at the center trace the path and agree with him how to meet the student.

    Establish direct communication

    The teacher with whom the student has the most connections will be responsible for leading the conversation to create from the start a climate of trust where the student can express himself and become aware of the problem.

    The conversation can be approached by following the following topics, avoid direct confrontation: Concern for their change in attitude and behavior, physical and emotional consequences of the disorder, relationship with family and finally agreeing on how the matter will be transferred to the family. It should be noted that the student is likely to deny it, not to understand it as a problem (this is one of the main symptoms) and therefore not wanting to receive help.

      offer mediation

      After the conversation with the student, keeping calm and acting firmly, the teacher will inform him that a meeting will be convened with his relatives offering themselves as mediator between family and pupil to express their concern.

      Organize the meeting with the family

      The family reunion would be convenient to divide it into two parts, the first where the teaching side of the family shares the observed behavioral and emotional changes. In the second part, the importance of early detection and early treatment will be discussed with the student present. Resources will be provided on the centers with specialist professionals to assist to obtain comprehensive advice and assessment and thus be able to direct towards the most optimal treatment.

      Are you looking for professional help?

      From Psicotools, we believe it is important to promote preventive interventions that can help slow the growth in the incidence and prevalence of these diseases. This is why we consider it essential to intervene through educational programs with groups at risk (adolescents and schoolchildren) but also with educators and relatives who, as we have seen, play a key role. in the detection of the disease. To see our contact details, click here.

      Author: Carla Farré Soria, dietitian-nutritionist, head of the psychotools nutrition division

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