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Pandemic lockdown and the impact on individuals with eating disorders

I am finding that the pandemic lockdown – which provides challenges for most of us – creates particular difficulties for those with eating disorders.

There are different ways in which this can happen, some depending on the nature of their disorder. Given the established link between stress and eating disorders the increased stress that lockdown living will create for many can be expected to exacerbate eating disorder symptoms.

For those living in lockdown with others, because eating out or opting out of communal eating is more difficult, there are particular difficulties with communal meals and in maintaining privacy about eating disorders.

Food shortages also pose particular difficulties for sufferers of Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) – previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), a disorder in which people eat from only an extremely narrow range of foods. Typically, ARFID sufferers prefer bland foods such as pasta or rice which have been in particularly short supply – adding to stress.

Now it is more important than ever to maintain good health so for those with eating disorders it is critical to maintain close social connections with supportive individuals. Many people report it is also a time for taking stock of life and gaining new perspectives.

Despite the crisis there have been some very positive signs. Some people with mental health conditions have reported feeling much better since the lockdown started and a large scale survey of wellbeing carried out at UCL has found that, over the last few weeks, wellbeing has risen and anxiety levels have fallen for both people with and without existing mental health disorders. People’s reactions in times of trouble can be quite extraordinary.

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