COVID-19 and Eating Disorders: Staying Strong
Many aspects of the global Coronavirus pandemic, ranging from the disease itself to restricted social interaction and economic consequences, are already having dangerous effects on mental health across the globe. Although aspects of COVID-19 may have a negative impact on mental health among the general population, people with eating disorders or problems with eating in general face specific and frightening risks such as changes in food availability that can influence binge eating and other disordered behaviors. Furthermore, changes in treatment availability and social support could affect recovery progress, trigger relapse, or worsen any co-existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It’s important to recognize how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect you so you can begin to push back against those negative eating beliefs and continue your path to recovery.
Psycho-social stressors stemming from the pandemic and resultant stay-at-home orders have a tendency to exacerbate ED-related triggers and present a challenging environment for individuals with anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, or other disordered eating habits. For example, limited products in grocery stores can compromise access to ‘safe’ routine foods, and food shortages may induce feelings of guilt during food purchases in anorexic patients who are required to stick with high-calorie diets. Clients are reporting increased fear and anxiety around eating, citing the pandemonium at grocery stores and the social pressure around stocking up on specific foods as triggers. Others struggle with increased binging temptations, especially as they have an increase in time at home with easy-to-access food.
This pattern of increased disordered eating in a pandemic is not unusual. After the 2003 SARS outbreak, eating restrictions were found to trigger the development of psychological disorders in 26% of respondents of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) (1). As studies have reported a significant correlation between the GHQ and the Eating Disorders Symptom Impact Scale (EDSIS) (2), the current COVID-19 climate may also potentially contribute to the risk of developing disordered eating in otherwise healthy individuals.
Treating disordered eating is critical to ensuring you don’t experience long-term impacts as a result of the pandemic related stress. During these difficult times, I’m prioritizing virtual and comprehensive mental health services to ensure that you have access to all the support you need to fight these triggers. Together, we will fight against your fear and bring you to a safe place where you can challenge your disordered eating and continue to make progress towards your dream lifestyle.