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Eating disorders made worse amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Isolation and anxiety are causing people who already struggle with eating disorders to struggle more.

CLEVELAND — If an eating disorder could have its way, it would choose a pandemic environment anytime. 

Eating disorders are related to anxiety and isolation, so people who are in situations with high anxiety and high isolation are at higher risk for an eating disorder. In fact, what more has the pandemic given to us than more anxiety and isolation?

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Add to that, stay-at-home orders in every state and new health fears due to COVID-19, and you have yourself a perfect recipe for making eating disorders worse, according to Jillian Lambert, chief strategy officer for The Emily Program - a national leader in eating disorder awareness, treatment, and recovery.

"We're at home surrounded by different routines, different food, different access to food, and a social media atmosphere which is full of messages about what we should look like and how we should be exercising at home during Covid, and different things we should be doing with our food, and feeling like we should be accomplishing things," Lambert says. "There's a lot of anxiety that is making eating disorders worse."

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Throw in economic volatility and the overall sense of dread that a pandemic can bring, and eating disorder behaviors thrive. The Emily House is seeing people who are already struggling with eating disorders struggling even more because they are anxious, isolated, and lonely. 

All can fuel the urge to both restrict and binge food. 

"There's been a 70% increase in calls to the National Eating Disorders Helpline since Covid began. With this being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we should all give some thought to people who are trying to find a way to live a rigid life of routine and control during a time where very little is routine and very few things are within our control."

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Editor's note: the video in the player below is from a story published on Jan. 11, 2021.