A significant increase in eating disorders has occurred during the pandemic, with adolescents and young adults most affected.
The National Eating Disorders Hotline reported an average increase of 40% in the number of calls, sometimes with an increase of up to 70-80%.
Feelings of lack of control, isolation, increased social media and decreased activity levels have all led to an increase in eating disorders, according to health experts.
Eating disorders are linked to the way people think, feel and relate to food in their lives. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are eating disorders that are considered serious eating disorders. These disturbances include binge eating, fasting, and purging. People diagnosed with eating disorders have higher levels of mood and anxiety issues compared to those not struggling with these diagnoses.
* Anorexia: A condition characterized by weight loss and distorted body image, in which the person is afraid of gaining weight. People with anorexia severely limit the calories and the types of foods they eat, may exercise compulsively, and in some cases, purge themselves by vomiting or using laxatives.
* Bulimia: A cycle of binge eating (in large quantities) and compensation by behaviors such as self-induced vomiting. People with a bulimic episode feel unable to control the amount of food they eat.
* Binge eating disorder: This is similar to bulimia in that it involves episodes of uncontrolled eating, but it does not involve bleeding. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder and the one that is least known at this stage.
Several factors contribute to the increase in eating disorders during stressful times of COVID-19. The pandemic has been a very unpredictable time, with individuals feeling a loss of personal control. There was an increase in isolation and a typical lack of structure during this time, which led to more stress, anxiety, and depression.
For people with eating disorders, exercising control over food can be a way to regain some predictability and self-efficacy.
There were also triggers for eating disorders during the pandemic, such as weight gain due to reduced activity or the need to compensate for not being as active as usual by restricting the activity. feeding or purging.
Additionally, the longer time spent on social media has been a factor that can have a negative impact.
Many social media posts equate self-improvement with weight loss, encouraging the use of time to change eating habits and get in physical shape. More time spent on social media allows for more time to compare and compare yourself to others, and to feel the need to meet certain standards, which can be unrealistic and unattainable.
Finally, due to the loss of jobs and other financial factors, food insecurity has increased during the pandemic, leaving some people uncertain when and how they will get food next. This uncertainty has also contributed to the increase in the incidence of eating disorders.
When it comes to treatment options, there has been a decrease in availability during the pandemic. Important elements in the treatment of eating disorders are intake monitoring and post-intake monitoring activities to ensure digestion and food processing.
Limited treatment options or treatment offered through telehealth have limited the capacity for such monitoring. A person participating in telehealth can choose what can be seen through the camera, which may not give the provider an accurate picture.
Eating disorders are treatable conditions. It is important to seek an assessment to determine which treatment options are appropriate and available.
If you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of an eating disorder, you can call, text, or chat the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237 or go to nationaleatingdisorders.org.
Natchaug Hospital provides mental health and addiction treatment to children, adolescents and adults through a network of community programs in Danielson, Dayville, Enfield, Groton, Mansfield, Norwich, Old Saybrook, Vernon and Willimantic . For more information, visit natchaug.org.
Carrie B. Vargas, Ph.D, is regional director of ambulatory services at Hartford Healthcare, which operates Backus and Natchaug hospitals, among others.