COVID-19 making eating disorders worse

Posted at 5:51 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 19:55:50-04

It is estimated around 30 million people in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. When people with eating disorders are forced into isolation, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the triggers can get worse.

"We all need to be aware that this can be a really tough time for people who are struggling with addictions," said Dina Zeckhausen, Founder of the eating Disorders Information Network.

Even as stay-home orders begin to lift, the toll of the pandemic on mental health is very real.

"The isolation, the lack of control, the lack of predictability and feeling trapped can really exacerbate people's tendencies towards being self destructive," said Zeckhausen.

One of the groups of people suffering right now is those with eating disorders.

"Eating disorders are mental health disorders characterized by obsession with food and weight and ones body," said Zeckhausen. "Even though eating disorders appear to be about food and eating, they're actually attempts to numb, manage and control uncomfortable emotions."

Zeckhausen also says one of the biggest stressors for people with eating disorders is isolation. "Often we talk about eating disorders as a voice in your head, or a relationship you have with this voice in your head, and the antidote is to have relationships with real human beings and when a person is isolated, they're more likely to turn to the voice in their head for comfort and connection."

But with the increased use of telemedicine during this time, Zeckhausen says you don't have to suffer alone as therapists, dietitians and group sessions have moved online. She says there are also several things you can do right now if you are feeling anxious or depressed:

  • Practice yoga or meditation
  • Focus on the here and now
  • Take action -- write a letter to a friend or neighbor
  • Go outside
  • Take a walk or do some form of exercise
  • Do something crafty or creative to express your feelings
  • Find a way to express gratitude
  • Watch your news media intake
  • Only follow social media with positive body messages

"Good general principles right now for anyone struggling with this is to be gentle with yourself and be patient," said Zeckhausen.

If you or someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, know you do not have to struggle alone. To find a professional in your area to connect with or for immediate help, click here.