Blockages put some people with eating disorders in crisis
FRIDAY, March 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) – At the Food Recovery Center, people who provide treatment and services eating disorders, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs were switched to virtual pandemic began.
But that didn’t go down well with the people who were working to heal.
“Our patients said,‘ You can’t do this. This is not enough support for us, ”said Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher, a certified eating disorder specialist and regional clinical director at the Eating Recovery Center in Chicago. “And within a week, we brought in partial hospitalization again because we realized that the risk of them not receiving treatment there was worse than the risk of going out in public.”
People who suffer from fear, isolation and loss during a pandemic include eating disorders, e.g. anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, according to recent research by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
“It is well documented that people with eating disorders control eating in a negative way because they have control over that behavior and there are other areas of life that they do not control,” the study author said. Mike Trott, PhD researcher at Anglia Ruskin University.
University researchers reconnected with 2019 participants to study 2019 body dysmorphia, exercise dependence, and eating disorders to find out how COVID-19 reductions in 2020 could cause eating disorders. A total of 319 participants were members of the 37-year-old health club.
Participants answered questions such as: “Being overweight scares me,” “I feel like throwing up after meals,” and “I feel very guilty after eating,” which are part of the study of eating attitudes. EAT-26.
EAT-26 scores increased significantly in 2020, after being blocked, compared to 2019. This suggested higher levels of food behavior, such as anorexia and bulimia, according to the study’s authors.
The findings were published in the April issue Psychiatric Research.
Social isolation can exacerbate eating disorders
In the UK, blocking allowed only certain distances from home. “And that’s very new stress, new mental stress on the body,” Trott said. “What has been shown in the past is that stress, whatever it is, comes with mechanisms to involve food.”
While some actions went from bad to worse, others got better. The study found a reduction in exercise dependence symptoms after the block, even though the levels of individual exercise rose from 6.5 hours per week in 2019 to 7.5 hours in the post-block week in 2020. The increase may be because people are eager to return to exercise routines. after blocking, Trott suggested.
Trott said the researchers could not be sure that the pandemic was responsible for the increase in eating disorder behaviors.
“I think we’re a long way from ordinary life,” Trott said. “I think with some people it can go back to normal. For others it may not. We all deal with things differently and for some of us it stays with us.”
Astrachan-Fletcher noted that eating disorders can thrive in an environment that has long been socially isolated. Warning signs are almost harder to pick up.
The study he examined indicated that it was a problem that did not change during the pandemic.
This could be because people do not experience enough opportunity for social comparison of their bodies. He explained that social comparison is a major driver of body dysmorphia.
Astrachan-Fletcher said that returning to situations where social anxiety and social comparison increase can help increase struggles.
“Being isolated for a year, and seeing it with a lot of people, can cause more anxiety about leaving home, even though it’s“ safer, ”because of vaccinations,” Astrachan-Fletcher said. “I absolutely believe that when we start to open up we will see people struggling with that, with increasing rates of anxiety and depression.”
Returning to “normal” life can be hard
The causes of eating disorders are not known. There is a biological predisposition, a psychological component, and a sociological component, Astrachan-Fletcher said.
“We know that puberty certainly helps, that this biological tendency sometimes begins in adolescence,” Astrachan-Fletcher said. “Do we know exactly what causes eating disorders? It’s multifaceted. That’s what we know.”
As people lose their support systems, they also become accustomed to being more isolated and physically seen, said Ilene Fishman, a social worker in private practice in New York who specializes in eating disorders. Fishman is also the founder of the National Eating Disorders Association.
“It’s not surprising to learn that eating disorders have made people worse at the time of COVID,” Fishman said. “Not only eating disorders, but also mental health challenges in general, people struggle more during the COVID era.”
During the pandemic, people disrupted reliable scheduling and support systems, Fishman said. There is less prior connection, including psychotherapy treatment. Food insecurity can also affect people with eating disorders in the early days of the pandemic, Fishman added.
When people have eating disorders, life is shorter, Fishman said. They are not so social. They are not eating with people. They can put up excuses to avoid socialization. These can be warning signs, as well as signs of depression and anxiety, he said.
The positive result is that now everyone is talking more about mental health, Fishman said, which could reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
“I think it’s a positive thing, because if it’s more normalized, it’s less stigmatized,” Fishman said. “These fights are real and legitimate and it hurts people, so hopefully there will be less stigma.”
Contact the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237. Write to NEDA 741741 in a crisis situation. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more eating disorders.
SOURCES: Mike Trott, PhD student and research assistant, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, England; Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher, PhD, Regional Clinical Director, Midwest, Eating Recovery Center, Chicago; Ilene Fishman, LCSW, founding / executive member, National Eating Disorders Association, and psychotherapy practitioner, New York; Psychiatric Research, April 2021