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Calls for help with eating disorders increase during pandemic

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Posted at 7:18 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 17:09:33-05

Calls for help with eating disorders have been increasing during the pandemic among both adults and kids.

The latest numbers from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or ANAD, show calls to their helpline have almost quadrupled. They were seeing around 80 calls a month prior to the pandemic. Now, it's around 230.

“The isolation that people were feeling at the beginning in some ways has become even more protracted just because of the duration of this pandemic and the continued stay-at-home measures and the social distancing precautions and things like that. Then, there's the continued uncertainty about the future,” said Lynn Slawsky, Executive Director at ANAD.

Among kids, the helpline received 43 calls from people ages 13 to 17 from May of 2019 to February of 2020. From March to November of 2020, that number increased to 96.

“One thing we have seen is more parents calling our help line because they are seeing their kids more and they're seeing their kids' eating habits more throughout the day than they used to,” said Slawsky.

Slawsky says a number of things may be driving demand right now. More people may be experiencing disordered eating because of the stress of the pandemic. Also, more people may be reaching out for help who may not have done so before.

Tele-health and tele-mental health are now more accepted, and insurance is covering them when it may not have before.

Working from home has also made it easier for some people to fit eating disorder treatment into their life, because their schedule may have more flexibility.

“Most of our volunteers who answer our helpline themselves have lived experience and they too know the struggles of even making that first call,” said Slawsky.

ANAD offers free peer support, one-on-one mentoring and support groups. A new support group specifically for adolescents and teens starts this week. You can sign up at ANAD.org.