Lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many people, but particularly so for people with an eating disorder.
Dr Laura Renshaw-Vuillier and her team (Dr Rachel Moseley, Dr Maddy Greville-Harris, and Dr Liz May, with the help of Rhiannon Surman) conducted a study on the effect of the lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic on over 200 people with a diagnosis of an eating disorder, during June-July 2020. Out of all the papers published in the journal of Eating Disorders in 2021, their paper has been selected for the Best COVID-19 2022 Research Paper award.
Their study found that over 80% of the people surveyed reported worsening of their eating disordered symptoms during the pandemic. Particularly, they found that difficulties managing unpleasant emotions, changes to routine due to lockdown, and unhelpful social messages were key triggering factors, and many of their surveyed participants reported using eating disordered behaviours to cope with the pandemic.
Other papers have now also reported on the devastating impact the pandemic had, and how this currently creates unprecedented pressure on already stretched eating disorder services. As such, people have to wait years before being assessed or receiving treatment, for this condition that has among the highest mortality rates of all psychiatric illnesses, with suicide a major cause of death. This is a real crisis and Laura and her team are working hard trying to find workable solutions, such as developing an intervention to help people manage their emotions in a healthier way.