Eating disorders thriving in pandemic: Here are red flags to look for

National News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Experts say calls to the hotline for the National Eating Disorders Association are up 70-80% in recent weeks. And doctors on the frontlines here in Kansas City say they have noticed a surge of concerning behaviors.

“We do see, absolutely, at Children’s Mercy Hospital, an increase in families reaching out, seeing problematic behaviors,” said Dr. Kathryn Pieper, a clinical psychologist who treats eating disorders. “Weight loss or extreme exercising, things like that, that are causing concern, in their children and teens.”

Pieper said the isolation and chaos, caused by the quarantine, can be a significant health hazard for someone living with an eating disorder.

“What they’re trying to do is, they’re trying to cope with the uncertainty and the anxiety going on with COVID,” Pieper said.

Pieper said warning signs can include a new rigid exercise routine, along with noticeably changed eating habits.

“They’re not eating along with the family or they stop eating at restaurants or favorite foods that they used to eat, those are things that are cause for concern,” Pieper said.

Suzy Ayres’ college-aged daughter has been living with an eating disorder for about seven years.

“She had gotten pretty sick right away, which often happens,” Ayres said. “A lot of times people don’t realize that their child has an eating disorder until they’re hospitalized.”

While they can be serious and even potentially lethal, eating disorders are treatable.

“It’s not ever too early or too late to ask for help,” Ayres said.

Children’s Mercy has an eating disorders hotline, which can be reached at (913) 696-5070. The National Eating Disorders Association Helpline is (800) 931-2237.

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