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Have Eating Disorders Increased During the Pandemic?

Have Eating Disorders Increased During the Pandemic?

posted by: Nicole Hovey date: Feb 11, 2021 category: Blog comments: Comments Off on Have Eating Disorders Increased During the Pandemic?

Previously we’ve examined how behavioral health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, have increased during the COVID-19 public health emergency. One behavioral health concern that has received less attention, however, is the variety of eating disorders that can affect people of all ages.

Eating disorders can take many forms and show many different symptoms. Some key signs, however, are:
Preoccupation with weight
Fixation on parts of the body
Skipping meals
Forming odd eating habits
Refusing to eat particular food groups

COVID-19 and Eating Disorders

Experts across the United States have reported increased rates of eating disorders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, calls to their helpline have almost quadrupled, from about 80 calls a month before the pandemic to about 230. This is largely due to feelings of isolation, as well as concerns about an uncertain future, says Executive Director Lynn Slawsky.

The National Eating Disorders Association has also reported a 78-percent increase to its helpline since March 2020. Clinicians have also seen local increases in people seeking help for eating disorders. In California, UCSF has seen a doubling in hospitalizations for eating disorders. Disrupted circumstances, including stockpiling food and supplies and messages from social media, have also worsened eating disorder symptoms.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

The best treatment for eating disorders will depend on the disorder and symptoms involved. It also will involve treating any health problems that the eating disorder has caused. Treatment options include:

Psychological therapy and counseling
Nutrition education
Medical monitoring
Inpatient programs

Researchers continue to study how effective different types of therapies can be for eating disorders. For example, day treatment programs are often promoted as an alternative to inpatient treatment, but are not regularly used. One study looked at 148 patients with various eating disorders who under went 8 weeks of day treatment followed by outpatient treatment in a naturalistic setting. During the treatment phase, patients significantly reduced binge eating, purging, or fasting behavior. These improvements generally remained stable during follow-up. The study was published in Eating and Weight Disorders.

Another study found that music therapy could have potential in treating individuals with eating disorders. Researchers reviewed existing literature on the effect of music in people with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). The review was published in Psychiatria Danubina. While additional studies are needed, they found that:

Listening to classical music was found to be beneficial for the food consumption of inpatients with AN.
Group singing also reduced post-prandial anxiety in individuals with AN.
Vodcasts (also called video podcasting or vlogging) that carried positive visual or autobiographical stimuli helped with anxiety and body image for BN patients.
At the same time, watching music videos reinforced preoccupation with physical appearance.

Behavioral health clinicians and addiction treatment providers are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for their services, including treatment for individuals struggling with eating disorders. This is the ideal opportunity to reconsider your practice’s workflow and how you can streamline your operations to be more efficient, increase profitability, and improve client outcomes. Contact BestNotes today to learn about how our EHR and other solutions can help your practice stay on top of demand.

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