Calls seeking help for eating disorders up 107% since pandemic began

Experts say you are not alone.
Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 5:09 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.’

The National Eating Disorder Association says they have had a 107% increase in people reaching out for help since the pandemic began. About 9% - 10% of Americans have an eating disorder.

Experts say there are several reasons why eating disorders may be up since the pandemic started.

Stress, depression, isolation, and increased use of social media can all be factors. These can all lead to eating disorders.

“One is the fact that people are alone, they don’t have structure in their lives,” said Bill McCown, interim director of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

“Secondly, stress... And we know that uncontrollable stress makes any type of disorder, whether it’s anxiety or depression or schizophrenia, any type of psychological disorder will get worse.”

“Or if we think that food is scarce but we need to get it quickly, we will engage someone who has binge eating bulimia, so we grab everything we can,” he said.

McCown says when things get tough, people often find comfort in food, but he says the cause of eating disorders is different for each individual person.

It’s also affecting our youth more than ever.

“Now, we’re seeing it much more commonly with children and it seems to be stress-related.”

Dietician and nutritionist Jen Avis says COVID caused a disruption in many people’s routines and if they had a slight issue with eating before, it became amplified while stuck at home.

“Seeing how many people have died in the hospitals and all the issues with that, we got mixed information about what we can do and what we can’t do, so I think that and the disruption in our routine, it just brought a lot of that out,” Avis said.

During the pandemic, many turned to social media like TikTok or Instagram for entertainment.

And McCown says that’s a cause of the rise in eating disorders too.

“It sets up an unusual ideal for us, we feel that we have to look a certain way and if we don’t then we feel bad, which means we’ll either over or under-eat.”

Avis says eating disorders can be terminal and eventually you can reach a breaking point. She urges anyone struggling to reach out for help.

“There are so many forums online that a person can go to I would just make sure you go to one that’s legitimate.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, experts ask you to reach out to your primary health care provider.

You can also call the National Eating Disorder Association helpline at 800-931-2237.

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