The Unseen Mental Health Effects of the Pandemic: Eating disorders are on the rise and treatment can help

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(Family Features) Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, increases in mental health issues have been widely documented. While diagnoses like anxiety and depression are more common, other problems, such as eating disorders, have not been discussed as frequently.

Eating disorders have also increased in the past two years and can be life threatening, especially if left untreated. Today there are more treatment options available and more access to care for those who need help.

“Eating disorders are on the rise, and medical science is advancing in this area to continually improve treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Margherita Mascolo, chief medical officer at Alsana, a leading eating recovery community and treatment provider. “Our patients consistently report a decrease in eating disorder symptoms after treatment, and just as importantly, our survey data shows they also report a much better quality of life post-treatment. This data is very encouraging for patients and their families.”

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, races and socioeconomic statuses. An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have an eating disorder, and by 2030, there will be a 5% increase in the number of people with eating disorders, according to the Academy for Eating Disorders.

One of the challenges in treating eating disorders is finding treatment options and models of care that work with individual needs and schedules. For example, college athletes, young mothers and women with careers all have distinctly different lifestyles, so a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment is impractical and unlikely to succeed.

One potential solution is an approach that treats the whole person, such as The Adaptive Care Model at Alsana, which meets clients where they are in recovery. This holistic approach strives to create an inspiring healing experience that focuses on the patient’s total health. Creating a compassionate community of care is key to this treatment model. The program is based on five core areas:

Medical Treatment

Someone working to overcome an eating disorder must build health resilience and establish a physical foundation for recovery. A collaborative and compassionate approach allows for your medical issues to be monitored and addressed by specialty-trained physicians. The medical dimension seeks to empower you by educating you on the organic causes of your symptoms and how to overcome them.

Relational

Exploring and growing your own sense of purpose and self-expression can empower you to connect on a deeper level with yourself, others and your sense of purpose or true calling. This means rediscovering your true self, feeling confident in expressing your potential and working toward your goals. Instilling hope, inspiration and motivation along your healing journey can provide you with the tools and knowledge to thrive long after completing treatment so you have a positive outlook for the future.

Nutrition

Proper nutrition plays an important role in recovery, as you must learn to balance nourishment and pleasure on a physical and emotional level to restore a nurturing relationship between food and your body. Guidance and exposure to balanced food choices and real-life eating experiences helps build confidence and promotes enjoyment of meal experiences, not just the food itself.

Movement

Physical activity can be healing for both the mind and body. Listening and responding to the body creates a strong foundation of body awareness. Movement is an avenue toward achieving optimal health, but it’s also a way to learn to appreciate and connect with your body on a deeper level.

Therapeutic

Through therapy, you can work to heal from trauma, negative feelings, fears, and challenges that may be standing in the way of recovery. Practices that treat the person (not the disorder) can prove effective.

No treatment plan is one-size-fits all, and finding the right care is essential to recovery.  

“Focusing on the patient’s total health is an innovative treatment model that is proving effective,” Mascolo said. “Our caregivers provide personalized care, compassion and support to complement the medical, nutritional and psychological therapies in a holistic treatment model.”

Find more information about eating disorders and available treatments at alsana.com.

How to Identify an Eating Disorder

The first step in effective treatment is identifying a problem. Discussing the answers to these questions with your doctor may help you pinpoint an eating disorder and get you on the path toward recovery. Take the survey to find out if you may have an eating disorder at alsana.com/survey.

  1. Do you attempt to restrict calories or foods?
  2. Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  3. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
  4. Have you recently lost more than one stone in a three-month period?
  5. Do you believe yourself to be “fat” when others say you are too thin?
  6. Would you say food dominates your life?
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
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