Calls to a national eating disorder hotline have more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many eating disorders begin in childhood.
Amelia Frutiger was just 14 when her eating disorder took hold.
“All of a sudden I was like, ‘I hate how I look. I’m going to change that,'” she said.
After two years of treatment, Amelia said it was something she was still struggling with.
“It’s a voice in your head. It’s something that’s not you. And it’s constantly screaming at you saying, ‘You can’t do this,'” she said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors in the United States said they saw an increase in the number of children and teenagers like Frutiger being treated for eating disorders. Dr David Little, a doctor involved in a study published in the Eating Disorders Diary, told CNN “Across 80 hospitals, we saw a 25% increase in eating disorder admissions after the pandemic began in March (2020) compared to pre-pandemic trends.”
One of those hospital admissions was Shelten. He was taken to the emergency department of Colorado Children’s Hospital when he lost a third of his body weight in just five months. His heart rate was so low that doctors told his family he was at risk of heart complications. Prior to COVID-19, he was an active high school football player.
“My coaches have been very supportive of me. Just being there for me and helping me become a better person,” he said.
After five months of intensive therapy in hospital, he is back in the field and wants to help other children in their difficulties.
“I also want to help people with mental health in general, and just encourage them to break the stigma that mental health is not something to be kept in the dark,” he said.
There are many signs of eating disorders in children that parents can watch out for, including excessive weight loss or weight fluctuations, unusual eating habits, hair loss, and cavities.
The director of communications for the National Eating Disorders Association told CNN that the helpline’s call volume is still on the rise two years into this pandemic.
If you need help with an eating disorder, you can call or text the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at (800) 931-2237.