Eating disorders surge during

Pandemic isolation triggers stressed induced reaction

Before the coronavirus pandemic, students scrambled from sports practices to studying for school to Friday night sleepovers. Free time was an unknown term. However, after losing everything from in-person school to normal socialization, free time became abundant and stress became overwhelming. The lack of structure left students searching for control and comfort. In order to recreate these feelings, eating disorders surged as a result of the pandemic. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” The National Eating Disorders Association has reported a 78 percent increase to its helpline since March of 2020. “Within a couple months of the pandemic we started to see a steep rise of people coming in for eating disorders,” Summit Pediatrics Doctor Jennifer Dovichi said. 

Eating disorders are not restricted to a certain group of people; they affect all genders, races, body types, and weights. 

“You can’t tell from looking at someone whether or not they have an eating disorder because eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their body size or weight. It’s important to be aware of behaviors, like excessive dieting or body image concerns, that could lead to an eating disorder,” Miramonte Wellness Coordinator Andie Nishimi said.

The Center for Discovery of Eating Disorder Treatment suggests that a contributing factor is the unpredictability of grocery store inventory. This can either resurface or create urges to restrict and binge. 

“Before going into quarantine I went months without restricting my eating. But a few weeks into lockdown I slipped into my old habits. I’m still trying to get my eating disorder under control but it’s harder this time because of all the other things that are going on right now,” a Miramonte student who wishes to remain anonymous said. 

The pandemic turned school virtual, canceled sports and many extracurricular activities, and took away socialization. 

“The pandemic took everything away and I lost all control over the things in my life. I found that what I was eating was one thing I was still able to control,” another Miramonte student who wishes to remain anonymous said. “School ended and I was able to focus all my time and energy on counting calories and what I was eating. I would restrict what I ate and would try to plan ahead what my meals would be.” 

Eating disorders not only are mentally harmful, they disrupt normal body function and can cause permanent damage. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders. 

“Besides my body changing, I became really weak and my body would shake constantly. I started sleeping worse and I became really dizzy too,” another Miramonte student who wishes to remain anonymous said.

If you, a friend, or a family member are struggling with an eating disorder, there are many different courses of action you can take. Talking to a parent, teacher, or even reaching out to the Miramonte Wellness Center is a great first step. 

“The Wellness Center offers individual counseling support for a range of topics, including support around disordered eating behaviors, dieting behaviors, or disordered eating,” Nishimi said.

Through a team of doctors and specialists, a recovery plan is formulated for patients. “There are essentially three people on [the patients] team: the doctor, the nutritionist, and the therapist. The doctor analyzes and collects data. The nutritionist is responsible for telling the patient what they need to eat to get their weight to go in the right direction. The therapist, who sees the patients most often, helps them overcome the mental component of an eating disorder. In many ways, this is the hardest part,” Dovichi said. 

  Finding and creating balance is one of the most important steps to avoiding or treating an eating disorder.  

  “Having an eating disorder is like being in a spiral but you just need someone that can pull you out of it. Confiding in my friends and prioritizing my mental health helped me get through this difficult time,” another Miramonte student who wishes to remain anonymous said.