The Alarming Rise of Eating Disorders During the Pandemic

In this stressful and disordered time, disordered eating is at an all-time high. Calls to the National Eating Disorder Hotline (1-800-932-2237) have increased by over 70% in these last few months. This is even more alarming when you consider that many of those afflicted with eating disorders suffer in silence. These conditions themselves are isolating, so in times like these things are amplified. As many in-person events have been put on hold, it has become more challenging to check-in on friends and family members. For those that are currently seeking care from registered dieticians and clinical psychologist, their sessions have likely moved entirely online. This change, coupled with an array of other possible shifts, only exaggerates disordered thoughts and eating habits.

mental health signs on a fence Photo by Dan Meyers from Unsplash

While it is impossible to pinpoint any single event or trigger as the cause of disordered eating, stress and anxiety are two common ones. Whether it be due to the uncertainty of the future, the concern of contracting COVID-19 or a number of other stressors, a frightening number of people have turned to disordered eating habits to help gain a sense of control in their current situation. It is a common misconception that for many of those fighting eating disorders, it is all about looks and numbers. While this is a completely valid struggle in itself and maybe the case for some, it is important to remember that it is possible for anyone to be struggling regardless of their physical characteristics.

For that reason, use National Eating Disorder Awareness Week as a time to help your friends, family or even yourself, because anyone you know can be struggling, not just what the media portrays! So, you might be asking yourself, what can I do? Learning—and relearning if necessary—as much as possible about eating disorders is one of the best ways to understand and support loved ones. This is easier than ever with the prevalence of registered dieticians and psychologists sharing infographics on social media platforms like Instagram. Another really great source of reliable information is podcasts! The Eating Disorder Recovery Podcast by Dr. Janean Anderson is a great place to start for both those struggling and their supporters. But while the information may be accessible, help may not be. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) recommends not oversimplifying when offering help. Another important thing to do is to encourage them to seek professional assistance.

For yourself, checking in can look like taking note of your thoughts while or just after you eat. There are no qualifications to receive professional care either—dieticians and psychologists care for people of all ages and body types. So, if you feel in any way that you or a friend may be in need of help, please reach out! In honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Week and the millions of lives lost in this fight (eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate among mental illnesses), show your love for yourself and your friends by checking, because though we may be isolated no one deserves to go through this alone.

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