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Eating disorders have exploded during COVID: What parents need to know

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As a psychologist who cares for adolescents, I am well aware of the prevalence of eating disorders among teenagers. Even still, I am stunned by how much worse the situation has become in the pandemic.

There are several possible explanations for this tsunami of eating concerns in teenagers. When adolescents lost the familiar rhythm of the school day and were distanced from the support of their friends, “many of the things that structured a teenager’s life evaporated in one fell swoop,” said Dr. Walter Kaye, a psychiatrist and the founder and executive director of the eating disorders program at the University of California, San Diego. “People who end up with eating disorders tend to be anxious and stress-sensitive — they don’t do well with uncertainty.”

Further, eating disorders have long been linked with high achievement. Driven adolescents who might have normally poured their energy into their academic, athletic or extracurricular pursuits suddenly had too much time on their hands. “Some kids turned their attention toward physical health or appearance as a way to cope with anxiety or feel productive,” Dr. Accurso said. “Their goals around ‘healthy’ eating or getting ‘in shape’ got out of hand” and quickly caused significant weight loss.

Click to keep reading the full New York Times article about what parents need to know.

-Lisa Damour

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