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Covid-19 and Eating Disorders: A Perfect Storm

UNITED KINGDOM / AGILITYPR.NEWS / February 22, 2021 / Eating Disorders Awareness week runs from the 1 -7 March 2021. A recent study has found that Covid has created the perfect storm for those struggling with an eating disorder. Months of isolation, home schooling, and working from home are new elements in our lives that have made a challenging impact on our psyche. Need2Know Books explores the social issues facing sufferers of eating disorders and how to help them during this difficult time.

Need2Know Books is offering readers a 30% discount off The Essential Guide to Anorexia. Visit: www.need2knowbooks.co.uk and enter N2k30 at checkout.

The fear of Covid and on-going social distancing measures have been key factors that have intensified behaviours that are associated with eating disorders. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders revealed that individuals with anorexia reported restricting their eating more. While others with bulimia and binge-eating disorders reported more bingeing urges and episodes. Those taking part also noted an increase in anxiety and concern about Covid-19’s impact on their mental health.

Cynthia Bulik, the paper’s senior author says: “anxiety and depression are on the rise for many because of the pandemic—and this increase can present specific triggers to those with eating disorders. Such triggers are almost custom-made to exacerbate their illness”.

Social isolation and eating disorders

It’s not a surprise that sufferers of eating disorders are having a hard time. Eating disorders thrive on social isolation, and lockdown measures create an unhappy perfect storm. The need for routine and connecting with friends – something that has been ripped away for many sufferers – has caused a resurgence of symptoms that were once manageable.

Due to being at home we are all spending more time on our devices, phones and computers which can have a negative impact on those already struggling with their self-image and self-esteem.

“Social media messages about being productive, effectively using time in quarantine and avoiding the ‘COVID-19 weight gain’ have led to increased negative self-talk,” says Shiri Sadeh-Sharvit, associate director of training at the Center for m2Health at Palo Alto University.

The messages surrounding Covid and the worry of food scarcity has caused some people to stockpile food. This has had a devasting impact on sufferers of eating disorders. For some the need to stockpile food has increased bingeing, vomiting and the misuse use of laxatives and weight loss aids.

Gym closures has also been difficult for sufferers. Bulik says: “For those whose disorder includes compulsive exercise, either they’re very anxious because they can’t go to the gym or find themselves exercising excessively at home because there are no barriers to doing so,” she adds, that some people might even experience both of these effects.

Treatment challenges

Accessing treatment has been one of the biggest challenges for sufferers of eating disorders during the pandemic. Due to lockdown measures face-to-face therapy has largely been discontinued, so a primary source of support and accountability has been moved online. Healthcare specialists are trying to find new ways to help patients so that individual help can be given. Online groups, and online face to face meetings are some of the measures being used.

How to help a loved one

Dedicated Organisations that offer treatment have people working from home so there is always help and assistance available. As a parent or carer here are some important tips to remember when assisting a loved one with an eating disorder.

  • Fundamentally, eating disorders are a mental health issue, and behaviours around food are symptoms. It’s likely that symptoms become worse during this period of increased anxiety and worry, so try not to view setbacks as giant steps backwards – long term, they may even be important learning points.
  • It could be helpful to talk to the person you’re supporting about meal planning, what foods they feel comfortable with, and what support you can put in place during mealtimes. 
  • If you are concerned about the state of a loved one’s physical health, call their treatment team. If you are seriously worried about them, call their GP and inform them that you are concerned. 

The Essential Guide to Anorexia is available from Need2Know Books priced £9.99. Receive a 30% discount simply enter N2K30 off at checkout. http://www.need2knowbooks.co.uk.


Shelley Goffe Caldeira


Phone: +44 07948 346 347