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Pandemic stress can be triggering for people copping with eating disorders, experts say

April 24, 2020
KXXV Central Texas
Dr. Allison Chase spoke with KXXV in Central Texas about triggers for people coping with eating disorders during the pandemic and resources to help. (Video)

CENTRAL TEXAS — Experts estimate over 30,000 people cope with eating disorders across the United States. Every 62 minutes, someone dies from an eating disorder.

These disorder often begin as stress or anxiety, and doctors and counselors warn that the pandemic could be triggering for those who cope, or have coped with eating disorders.

“At this time that we’re at right now, with the COVID pandemic going on, the anxiety is just sky high for everybody,“ explained Dr. Allison Chase, Regional Clinics Director, Eating Recovery Center & Insight Behavioral Health Center.

“We talk about eating disorders as being about mismanaged emotions, and so if you think about that, things like anxiety, and depression, and mood issues, they’re all underlying what’s happening with eating behaviors,” said Dr. Chase.

“The social distancing exacerbates the isolation that people with eating disorders tend to do normally,“ explained local eating disorder counselor Kris Pina.

Pina, a specialist in intuitive eating, said, "the one thing that you do actually have control over in times like these are your reactions to your emotions, you might not have control over the emotions, many times emotions just come to us, but you have control over how you react to those emotions."

Experts say its important to be aware of signs of eating disorders, like pulling away from others, isolating, and not sharing.

Dr. Chase said signs could materialize in many ways.

“Sometimes it saying I’m not hungry I’ve already eaten, for others it’s engaging in over exercising, for some it’s using the bathroom after they’ve eaten food, if they are going to purge, for some it’s after you’ve noticed a lot of food disappearing because they’re engaging in binging behaviors," she said.

If a family member recognizes eating disorder signs and symptoms in their family, Pina says, "I would suggest in these times to not necessarily focus on the behavior, but to help the person deal with the anxiety they might be feeling."

“I can’t stress enough how getting professional help is so essential, the sooner you catch eating disorder behaviors, and get the right level of treatment, the higher the likelihood we’re going to look at recovery and remission“ said Dr. Chase.

There are many resources available for all levels of care for those coping with eating disorders.

Experts pointed towards seeking professional help. Many counselors are offering entirely virtual sessions during the pandemic.

If eating disorders symptoms and patterns are more severe, clinics like the Eating Recovery Center & Insight Behavioral Health Center are open during the pandemic for patients.

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Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood and Anxiety Center are accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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