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Eating Disorder Increased During the Pandemic

Experts who treat Eating Disorder in adolescents and young adults say they are seeing remarkable demand for treatment that arose during the pandemic. Inpatient units have doubled or tripled capacity, waitlists for residential programs and outpatient services are months long, and the patients coming in are sicker than ever.

Health experts added that they have seen an increase during the past year in anorexia nervosa, an Eating Disorder where people deprive themselves of food. Other disorders being seen include bulimia nervosa, where people binge on food and then try to get rid of it with laxatives or vomiting, and binge-eating disorder, where people consume excessive amounts of food in a short period.

Tracy Richmond, director of the Eating Disorder program at Boston Children’s Hospital, finished a study accepted for publication in the Journal of Adolescent Health showing hospitalization rates of eating-disorder patients at Boston Children’s more than tripled in the pandemic. The inpatient numbers rose from three or four to more than 10 and as many as 16 at a time. Demand for outpatient treatment also surged, from an average of six case reviews a week to as many as 23.

Dr Richmond said that the patients who come in are just really sick. Some have lost as much as 50% of their body weight. They look at it like a second pandemic, the mental-health needs in adolescents and disorders of eating part of that. Dr Richmond said initial data she has collected from 14 disorder eating treatment centers nationwide indicate hospitalizations at least doubled during the pandemic. Social isolation, boredom and fear of gaining weight during quarantine also led to unhealthy behaviors.

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