Eating Disorders during COVID-19

December 6, 2020

During stressful times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone needs a place to turn to for comfort. For some, this comfort can be found in food, but for others, it’s a battle just to be around it. Eating disorders are known to be one of the most deadly mental illnesses that have claimed several lives. Although commonly found in teenagers, they may even be found in people on all sides of the spectrum. The world of eating disorders is vast and scary and is not a diet, anesthetic, or a trend.  

Most of the lives of those who suffer from eating disorders usually revolve around food, and in most cases, it’s all the individual can think about while often feeling anxious around it. In the article Managing Eating Disorders During COVID, by Nicole Hadler from the University of Michigan Medical states, “…the disturbance of daily routines, such as grocery shopping practices and exercise, and feelings of loss of control can worsen stress and anxiety and lead to unhealthy food behaviors”. During the current pandemic, stress levels, as well as feelings of anxiousness, have risen among many. Said feelings especially impact those with eating disorders since they feel like they are losing control of themselves, and end up finding said control through food or partaking in other unhealthy habits.

Eating disorders are often associated with the desire to change one’s appearance, however, there are many reasons which give rise to the mental illness, the most prominent being an emotional disturbance. The National Institute of Mental Health states, “Eating disorders are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that are associated with severe disturbances in people’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions”. There is a big difference between a diet and an eating disorder. A diet is done with careful planning and a set goal, but an eating disorder does not have a set goal. Individuals suffering from eating disorders are unintentionally hurting themselves, and in some cases said harm may result in organ failure or the cessation of menstrual cycles.

Those affected by eating disorders vary greatly, but one can never tell based on their appearance alone until it’s too late. Tiffany Rios, a student at Turlock High School who has been suffering from an eating disorder since before the quarantine period began said, “I’m kind of in a cycle of binge eating and then restricting. I used to be able to be more willing to eat what my body needed without having to eat everything because I was at school and got more movement I guess and wouldn’t have to eat until I got home. So now it’s really just a back and forth thing.” Since being out of school for months, those suffering are surrounded by the things that cause them anxiety and without distractions such as school, they are finding it to be even more difficult to cope. 

No one wants to intentionally harm themselves, so for those who have an eating disorder and are not in the best environment to solve those problems in a healthy manner, said disorders may begin to worsen over time until professional help and intervention is crucial. There are many resources that will always be available to help and all it takes is a phone call or text to said helplines. The National Eating Disorders Association based in New York is open 24/7 for both in-person and online help, just call or text (800) 931-2237, even if it seems lonely and hopeless it’s always best to try.

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