Study: Pandemic isolation makes eating disorders worse


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Eating disorders thrive on secrecy, and pandemic shelter-in-place orders have provided just that for millions.

“Suddenly everyone was in isolation, having to change their routine, or having a lack of routine and structure,” says licensed professional counselor Lisa Clark.

According to a new study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, many suffering from anorexia have been restricting their eating more during the pandemic. Others with bulimia and binge-eating disorder are doing just the opposite.

“With the pandemic, people were panicking and going to the grocery store. They were afraid things were going to close down,” Clark said. “So now instead of following their normal routine and structure, they have access to food all the time.”

Clark specializes in eating disorders at Savannah’s Waters Edge Counseling, and says she’s been hearing what the study claims from her patients.

“A lot of what we work on is creating a new schedule, kind of like modifying now that life is different. How are you going to maintain some of your positive behaviors?” she explained.

Clark tells her patients to try to get outside regularly. She says it’s also important to socialize, safely in-person or online, as much as possible.

“Get on a Zoom call with friends. Talk to other people,” she suggested, “and just stay in touch, whether it’s family members or just people in your city who you haven’t been able to see.”

She says eating disorders are pretty common in Savannah, in part, because so many college students call it home for much of the year.

“They struggle with stress and anxiety anyway, and again sometimes food is a way that they can feel they have control,” Clark said.

If you’re dealing with an eating disorder, and need immediate help, call the National Eating Disorders Helpline at 800-931-2237.

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