Medical Moment: Increase in teen eating disorders after COVID-19, studies say

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:36 PM EST
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(WNDU) - Eating disorders increased in teens and young adults during the pandemic.

By some studies, the rates of anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder were up by 15%.

An extreme obsession with weight and boy image. Eating disorders increased among young people during COVID-19 lockdowns and it’s not getting better.

“It’s been stressful for kids to go back to school,” said Janet Lydecker, a clinical psychologist at the Yale School of Medicine. “They’re in a different setting. They’ve missed a year, sometimes two years, of being in-person with their peers, and that’s stressful.”

During a binge, teens consume large amounts of food in a short period of time. As many as 1,000 to 2,000 calories in one or two hours. The binge is usually followed by feelings of extreme shame or guilt. Lydecker says parents can watch for signs of secretive eating.

“It can be finding wrappers and evidence that the kid has maybe gone to a convenience store and picked up a bunch of snacks on their own. Going to a fast food restaurant, but then eating in the parking lot or going to the convenience store, but eating on the way home.”

Teens may have a sudden change in foods they like to eat, or avoid family meals all together. Lydecker says parents should be supportive and look for professional help.

“We want to catch eating disorders as young as possible and as quickly after they emerge as possible,” Lydecker explained.

Lydecker says cognitive behavior therapy is effective in helping teens regain healthy eating habits.

People who need additional support or information can text or call the National Eating Disorder Hotline (800) 931-2237 or click here.