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Quarantine and it's Affect on Eating Disorders

Those who suffer from eating disorders are being put under more stress than usual due to the quarantine. “Staying at home has made it increasingly difficult to manage the stress-eating and binging,” said Kat Cordio to Instyle. Cordio was back in recovery in January after having a bulimia relapse in October of 2019. She described resisting the urge to stress eat and purge as “torture” while she’s at home.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact your health, your emotions and your ability to function in important areas of life.”. Many people’s eating disorders may stem from psychological or emotional problems like “low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships.”

Cordio isn’t the only one suffering from being stuck at home with an eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from eating disorders.

Dr. Paula Levine, a counselor at Miami Counseling, told me quarantine has created a “perfect storm". People who binge eat have specific foods they like to binge eat, and the lack of food options due to panic buying can trigger anxiety. People with anorexia can feel overwhelmed with the amount of food surrounding them due to stockpiling; while people with bulimia, who already binge eat and purge, can be placed in dangerous situations due to the sudden amount of food they have access to.

People on social media are already discussing how to avoid gaining the “quarantine 15” and using our newly found free time to be extra productive by exercising or working. Weight gain during this time can be stressful for a person with an eating disorder whose goal is to be thin. While many people are looking for structure at this time, the added stress of gaining weight can lead to people depending on their eating disorder for a sense of control.

Eating disorders can thrive when people are isolated. “All this alone time is messing with my head, I think too much about food and calories,” writes one Reddit user who is currently in recovery for bulimia.

Levine recommends people with eating disorders to continue to stay in touch with their therapist and support groups. For those who don’t have a therapist, she says counselors and therapists are very open to new patients right now. It’s also helpful to use online services, like Better Help. “People should be physical distancing but not socially distancing,” she said.

Levine recommends a Six Prong System for patients, and anyone else suffering from anxiety:

  1. Eat well.
  2. Sleep well.
  3. Exercise well (meaning not in excess.)
  4. Watch alcohol intake.
  5. Meditate or download an app and take up meditation.
  6. Be grateful.