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The COVID-19 Influence on Eating Disorders

Faith Carlson Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, QMHP

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on individuals mental health in many ways. With increases in depression, anxiety, and addiction relapse, we have also seen the direct impact on relapse in recovery of eating disorders. The International Association of Eating Disorder Professions cited a report that individuals struggling with anorexia during the pandemic have shown higher levels of restriction and are fearful of finding foods that fit into meal plans. Additionally, the population diagnosed with binge eating disorder and bulimia disorder reported increased episodes of disordered eating and relapse. We know eating disorders thrive in isolation and can be very secretive. The National Eating Disorder Association reports a 78% increase in the number of contacts through phone calls, chats, and emails compared to the year prior to the pandemic.

Getting support and help for an eating disorder has never been more important. With the pressures of the pandemic, financial stress, occupation and family strains, the atmosphere is ripe for relapse and increased eating disorders. Teenagers and young adults have faced a level of increased strain, anxiety, and pressure never experienced before in schools and colleges creating another trigger for eating disorders to develop and become entrenched.

Symptoms to be aware of in family members, friends, or co-workers who may be struggling with an eating disorder are: eating in isolation most if not all the time, skipping meals frequently, presenting with increased worry or anxiety around meals and foods, excessive and rigid exercise, obsessive focus on calories, and intense fear of weight gain. These are a few flags that can be concerning. Expressing support begins by sharing concern. A lot of shame and guilt is involved in an eating disorder, being calm and supportive means sharing concerns and remaining available for help in the future. If a family member or child is struggling, start with a conversation and a check in with a medical doctor or mental health therapist. Starting the conversation of concern is the first step, do not ignore the warning signs. If you are someone you know is seeking recovery from an eating disorder call our office today at 605-271-3441.

Clinicians with Renew Counseling Services can offer telehealth therapy, as well as completing treatment needs assessments, individual sessions, couples or family counseling. Feel free to give us a call for a free consultation to examine if our services could be right for you.