Coping with eating disorders fueled by pandemic

Eating disorders spike during pandemic, mental health therapist shares ways to cope

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Eating disorders are up by 70 to 80 percent, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

The pandemic is likely the culprit.

A mental health therapist has tips on how to cope.

True Hope Counseling in Jonesboro says that people are using different ways to handle stress caused by COVID-19.

“Eating disorders themselves are kind of a smaller subset of a bigger category, which is anxiety disorders,” said therapist Amy Flaherty.

Flaherty explains that people are using maladaptive coping skills to handle anxiety.

“We will go to whatever coping skill is easiest for us, but it’s all to alleviate that underlying anxiety, so some people do alcohol, some people go to restrictive eating, some people eat too much,” said Flaherty.

Sixty-one percent of people have seen weight gain since the pandemic, while binge eating disorder is on the rise. There has also been a rise in anorexia nervosa.

Flaherty says that eating disorders often give people a sense of control when they feel out of control during situations like the pandemic.

“The need for control that we don’t have. When we feel out of control, our bodies start feeling anxious, and we get thoughts that are not the best all those types of things start happening,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty says the best ways to cope are:

  • Track your mood. Write it down or use an app to find a pattern of possible triggers.
  • Take advantage of online counseling.
  • Join a support group.
  • Seek professional help from a therapist.

“Fairly quickly, I would say usually between 8-9 sessions that we are able to get our clients feeling better and get referred to the right medication if that needs,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty adds that if they are not the best fit for your situation, they will find you the right help in the area.

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