Isolation during pandemic leads to increase in eating disorder rates

Lily Hanafin, Opinions Editor

The pandemic has put a strain on the mental health of many people, especially those who already suffer from mental health problems. The stress and isolation from friends and family has unfortunately led to an increase in eating disorders. 

Calls to the National Eating Disorders Association rose 40% during the first year of the pandemic, the Cleveland Clinic reported. People that have family members who struggle with eating disorders, have self-esteem issues, or experience perfectionism are more predisposed to have an eating disorder; however, stressful events and traumatic situations can also trigger eating disorders, which is likely the reason the pandemic saw an increase in them.

Eating disorders thrive in isolation. Isolation makes it harder for others to notice disordered eating. In-person, family members and friends can notice abnormal eating habits and help the person seek treatment, but in isolation, there are fewer support systems from loved ones. 

During the pandemic, people don’t feel like they have control or power over a situation. A majority of eating disorders stem from the desire to have control over their weight because in other situations they aren’t able to. Along with the mental health effects of isolation, the pandemic created an increase in screen time among adults and adolescents. Added time spent on social media has been linked to increased body dissatisfaction and a desire for thinness. 

There is no easy fix to eating disorders. In a society with Photoshop, plastic surgery, and endless social media posts, the desire to be perfect has never been greater. The idea that everyone needs to be a certain size to be beautiful is crazy. People of all different sizes can be beautiful. People are born with all different body types: diet, genetics and environment are just a few of the aspects that have an effect on this. 

As a country, instead of promoting a certain weight or achieving ever-changing beauty standards, we should promote a healthy body. A body that eats a balanced diet the majority of time and looks different for everybody. Our bodies take care of us, so we should love and take care of them.

If you are experiencing an eating disorder and are in need of help contact the National Eating Disorders Assocation’s Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.