Rise and Shine shared in its blog that the coronavirus pandemic has put a huge strain on all aspects of peoples’ health and well-being, including mental health and body image. Since March 2020, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has experienced a 40% increase in call volume to their helpline, and Children’s National Hospital has seen a surge in body image and eating disorders among adolescents.

While eating disorders have been relatively common in teens for decades, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the conditions that sometimes lead to unhealthy eating. Kids are isolated at home, spending hours and hours on social media and not out doing the things they want to be doing. As a result, many young adults are exhibiting low self-esteem which often leads to a disordered body image. With the loss of control that everyone has experienced during the pandemic, many adolescents have turned their attention to two things that they can control: their diet and exercise. While this can be healthy when done properly, at the extremes of control, it can be indicative of an eating disorder.

The most common types of eating disorders

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Although they can affect anyone, they’re most common among adolescent girls and young women. During the pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in the number of eating disorders seen across all demographics, including in males. These teenagers are presenting ever more frequently with more serious complications than seen before, so it’s important to monitor your kids and talk to your pediatrician if you think something may be off. If not treated, eating disorders can lead to damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, digestive and endocrine systems, skin, and other organs.

  • Anorexia causes people to lose more weight than is healthy for someone at their age and height. People with anorexia purposely eat very little, tend to exercise a lot, and have an intense fear of weight gain. People with anorexia may be always cold and often wear baggy clothes to hide their thin appearance.
  • Bulimia involves regular episodes of bingeing (eating a large amount of food) followed by purging (ridding the body of the food through laxatives or vomiting). Unlike people with anorexia who have very low weight, people with bulimia may be thin, average weight, or overweight. People with bulimia typically hide their eating and purging from others.
  • Binge-eating disorder is a condition where someone regularly eats very large amounts of food. People with binge-eating disorder may feel upset or guilty after binge-eating, and they often gain weight and may become very overweight.
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) involves avoiding foods or being uninterested in food. People with AFRID tend to lose weight or don’t gain the expected amount of weight.

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