Covid-19 and disordered eating: How the pandemic has impacted eating habits

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Over the past 2 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many physical and emotional challenges. But has it also adversely affected people’s eating patterns and increased the prevalence of disordered eating?

Research suggests that disordered eating patterns have increased during the pandemic. Image credit: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Although not listed as a diagnosable condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), disordered eating can cause symptoms similar to an eating disorder, including restrictive or compulsive food consumption.

Moreover, anxiety, emotional distress, and changes in routine — some of the same stressors many people experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic — may trigger or intensify these symptoms.

Early in the pandemic, researchTrusted Source indicated an increase in self-reported eating disorder concerns. However, does this mean that pandemic-related stress has caused an increase in other food-related mental health concerns, such as disordered eating?

Stay informed with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our coronavirus hub for more advice on prevention and treatment.

In this Special Feature, we spoke with two experts to help determine the relationship between disordered eating and the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is disordered eating?

Disordered eating can be challenging to define as it encompasses a wide range of eating patterns. However, in general, people with a disordered eating pattern may eat for reasons other than hunger.

In addition, they might also change their eating patterns in response to internal or external stimuli, such as stress, boredom, or emotional dysregulation.People with disordered eating patterns may have symptoms similar to those with an eating disorder. These symptoms may include:fasting or skipping mealsbinge eating avoidance of specific food groups or types of foodpurging or laxative misuse an unhealthy preoccupation with body image or weight However, these symptoms might not occur as frequently or with the same intensity experienced by someone with a clinically diagnosed eating disorder.

How is it different from an eating disorder?Although disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder, it could be considered pre-clinical eating disorder behavior, according to Dr. Jillian Lampert, the chief strategy officer of The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative, who spoke with Medical News Today.

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