Over the past few months, we found an unusually increasing number of teenage girls that come to the clinic due to Eating disorders and a drastic weight loss. Interestingly, they all started suffering from this problem during the Covid 19 lockdown when they were isolated at home away from school and friends.

Eating disorders are far more common in young women, and it usually starts during the teenage period. Many of these girls are often described by their parents or teachers as being “perfectionists”, they may be at the top of their class in academic achievements, they may suffer from low self esteem and tend to harshly criticize themselves. Some of these girls suffer from other psychological disorders as well, such as anxiety, panic or obsessive compulsive disorders.

Girls with eating disorders become obsessively occupied with their body image and their weight. They will severely restrict their diet (As in Anorexia) or will frequently force themselves to vomit after eating (as in Bulimia). They will feel they are “overweight” even though their weight is dangerously low. Sadly, there is no way to logically convince them they are actually underweight and they will continue to starve themselves even when it is obvious their lives are at risk. Their body start to breakdown bone and muscle for energy, they lose hair and their skin becomes very dry, they stop having menstruation and their heart rate and blood pressure gradually drop down, causing them to feel dizzy or even faint.

Fighting eating disorders is a long and never ending struggle that can last a lifetime. Psychological counseling and emotional support are the most crucial parts of treating these girls. Having a close and strong relationship with a counselor who is experienced in eating disorders is the best chance of success and will increase the likelihood these girls will start eating healthy again and maintain their recovery over time.

Dr. Jonathan Halevy - Pediatrics, Family Medical Practice Ho Chi Minh City