According to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) (website in German, French and Italian), around 3.5% of the Swiss population are affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Eating disorders include illnesses such as anorexia, bulimia (bingeing and purging) and binge eating. "As different as eating disorders are, there is one thing that they all have in common: thinking about food dictates the life of those affected," said Dr. Silke Schmitt Oggier, medical manager at santé24.
What is anorexia?Anorexia is an eating disorder in which the sufferer loses weight either within a shorter period of time or slowly and steadily. For young people who are still growing and developing, inadequate weight gain can also be a symptom. What distinguishes the condition is that the individuals affected intentionally induce the weight loss themselves. "The possibility that the weight loss is connected to an undiscovered illness in the thyroid or the gastrointestinal tract does need to be ruled out," explained Silke Schmitt Oggier. It is also typical for individuals to have a skewed perception of their weight and body. They consistently see themselves as fat even though others think of them as thin.
Thinking about food dictates the life of those affected. Dr Silke Schmitt Oggier, Medical Director at santé24
Other frequent eating disorders that can be linked together are for example bulimia and binge eating. They involve episodes of overeating that can lead to being overweight, or, in combination with induced vomiting or overuse of laxatives, can also lead to being underweight.
Symptoms of an eating disorderAs young people who are going through a physical transformation are often the ones suffering from an eating disorder, parents should really also pay attention when certain signs are present. These may include the following:
- Avoiding shared mealtimes (for example with family members)
- Acting conspicuously during or after eating
- A sudden obsession with calories and healthy eating
- A strong compulsion to do exercise or sport that almost appears like an addiction
- Often also complaining about not being satisfied with their own body
- Weight loss of more than six kilograms in three months is a red flag in young people
How can you address the issue?If the individual is no longer open to constructive discussion, family members should seek professional help – at the very latest when additional physical changes become noticeable, such as very dry skin or possibly fissures at the corner of the mouth, or the absence of menstruation in girls and women. In these cases, professional advice or even intervention is needed.
santé24 – your Swiss telemedicineMedical help around the clock: The doctors and medical specialists at santé24 are there to offer you expert advice on all of your questions concerning prevention, illness, accidents and maternity – 365 days a year. Advice is free of charge to SWICA customers.
In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.