“Do you think there is an adolescent in the world who wants to spend months in a psychiatric center ?” Lluna Iglesias asks that question to anyone who does not understand what is happening to him or who believes that what he is looking for is to attract attention.

Because there are still many prejudices about eating disorders (ED) and there are those who judge from the outside without knowing what happens to people like her. His is a mental illness, a type of disorder whose incidence has grown in a very worrying way during the pandemic and the cases that already existed have worsened.

“Lluna had planned to enter a specialized center in Barcelona in March 2020. But the world stopped and did not enter until June. We had to sustain a very vulnerable situation for months , confined, with food continuously, because what marked our routine daily were meals, and with the anxiety that all that generates, “says Flors Moreno, mother of this young woman who is now 18 years old and who began to present the first symptoms of anorexia when she was 12. From then on, this girl has gone in and out of the hospital since he was diagnosed with depression at age 14.

Flors actually takes the 20 – minute call with her admitted daughter.

“They have just transferred her to a psychiatric unit in Lleida so that we can have her closer and because, as she also injures herself , they have considered that now it is the most urgent thing to treat. In the TCA unit in Barcelona she has been eating and therefore her weight has increased “, says this neighbor of a small town in the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees. Lluna has never reached a very exaggerated underweight – he has never been below 40 kilos at any time – but with a borderline personality disorder his mental health is very fragile.

It doesn’t matter what others tell you. She looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees. As much as you lose weight. You may become aware that your perception of your body is distorted but it is something you cannot control.

A good student, without adaptation problems, with friends and a family who adore her, her self-demand, perfectionism and sensitivity, however, lead her to be greatly affected by any ‘input’ that comes from outside.

“It’s a matter of how your head works. When you hear the typical comment of ‘if he has everything, what more does he want’ you realize that is a lot of awareness work to be done.And there is the stigma of believing that people who are in a psychiatric center are from a very specific environment in which something has had to happen. We are middle class and we lead a very normal life ”, remarks Flors.

The delay in that admission in 2020, together with the anguish generated by the pandemic and home confinement , did nothing other than aggravate the emotional state in which Lluna lives: “One of the symptoms that she and the girls with TCA have is the anxiety, that permanent anguish , because our whole society is mounted around meals.

When they are in an emergency situation, and the confinement was, you cannot let them prepare even a salad or see you prepare it. something, like you pour a spray of oil, can disturb them. And with the confinement, all those guidelines were more difficult to follow. ”

In this context, and at a time when, for fear of the coronavirus, practically every other health service was paralyzed, the care they received was also limited to outpatient visits by phone or videoconference. And once he entered the hospital, the epidemiological situation continued to weigh down his treatment .

“Before the pandemic, it was usual that, as a step prior to discharge, the reincorporation to daily life was gradual and through permits. These exits, however, were no longer possible because if not on the way back they had to be quarantined and isolated. With which she was hospitalized for seven months, “says this mother. Lluna returned home in December with the impact that this had on her after being in a hospital 24 hours a day, with nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists … “It was very hard.” So much so that she relapsed and was admitted again last summer.

“If you have a person dominated by an eating behavior disorder, a situation in which you mostly stay at home is terrible because you have to eat three times a day, probably accompanied by your family who is watching whether you do it or not, and you cannot go out to burn it.

It is especially stressful. All this with the difficulty of access to treatment “, explains Sara Bujalance, director of the Association against Anorexia and Bulimia (ACAB), an entity that for Flors is a great support : “With a health system that has many deficiencies for these diseases, the help of associations is essential. They have support groups for families, we meet, we even share advice, things that have worked for us, training, books …”.

ACAB points to a worrying increase in the number of cases and their severity, which is reflected in the fact that the TCA units began to fill up from approximately September 2020, and today they continue with a large influx of patients. “At least in Catalonia some even have a waiting list,” says the psychologist, who emphasizes the importance of treating these cases correctly and as soon as possible so that they do not become chronic or lead to adults with a greater predisposition to other mental disorders.

The director of ACAB, however, emphasizes that 70% of people with a problem of this type recover completely , “as long as they follow specialized treatment.” The process can last between four and five years and relapses are part of it, but it is possible to get out of that spiral.

“On the one hand, that percentage of cases in which the disease becomes chronic and you have to live with it, you always have it in mind. My fear is that Lluna is part of that low percentage that does not exceed it. But on the other hand you always have the hope that it will succeed. She has it, she is very brave. After six years he has not stopped fighting, all the income he has made has been voluntary “, says Flors, who underlines how much that says about his daughter:” He is very aware that he needs this control, this regulation and this protection . She is the main engine. He really wants to be cured and he can get it ”.

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