Alarming Rise in Eating Disorders during COVID-19

It is with no doubt that 2020 has been a chaotic, rough year for the majority of the population. The extremes of the situation has resulted in an alarming rise in the number of mental health cases, and data from the UCL COVID-19 social study states that 90,000 adults in UK has been monitored symptoms of anxiety and depression during lockdown. However, among many mental health issues, eating disorder has been one of the major concerns, as pressure to stay indoors has started to put focus on people's diet and activeness, especially in teenagers.

According to data from the NHS, the number of young people starting eating disorder treatment has risen from 328 to 625, nearly doubling from the beginning of the year. Having easy access to the kitchen, where there are shelves full of groceries from the panic-buying, can easily cause people to develop unhealthy habits. The rules of lockdown restricts sports events and training, which also leads to a decrease in physical activity.

An eating disorder is not simply overeating one or two pieces more of chocolate, pizza or sweets when on a diet: it is a psychological, unhealthy obsession with certain foods, causing one to excessively restrict, binge or purge. The reason why eating disorders has risen in teenagers in particular this year,  is because eating disorders and emotion is closely interlinked, and the overwhelming feeling of being out of control, stress, boredom and depression often leads to changes in eating habits.

Undoubtedly, there is also more pressure on having certain body figures amongst teenagers, which could result in calorie-tracking, over-exercising  and restricting without proper understanding and knowledge from professional dietitians. Although feeling stressed and out of control is completely normal during these times, parents and guardians must start paying attention to their daughters' and sons' eating habits and their emotional stability, as long-term eating disorders can lead to permanent damage to their growth and metabolism.

Alternatively, individuals should also self-assess and reflect on their relationship with food recently, as it is easier to recover from eating disorders the faster one starts receiving treatment.