The lockdown period has been tough for a lot of us, with it negatively impacting the mental health of individuals all around the world. Social isolation, changes to routine and uncertainty around the pandemic have resulted in heightened anxieties and even now as restrictions begin to be lifted, many are facing a daunting return to the “new normal”. The lack of routine and control has been especially hard for those suffering from eating disorders, with research from Northumbria University finding 87% of sufferers have faced worsened symptoms as a result. Those involved in the study identified a number of reasons for this, with one of the major challenges they faced being a reduction in healthcare service provision. Here at S.E.E.D we are taking a look at just what this has meant for those affected and how we can continue to support individuals in their recovery.
Control often plays a big part in the development of many individuals’ eating disorders. Many people have found that the Covid-19 legislation that removed significant elements of control in our day to day lives has been difficult. Furthermore, increased isolation and changes to regular routine has allowed for greater rumination about disordered eating and often a perceived lack of social support. When you then add in the intensified promotion of toxic diet culture and the proposal of damaging health campaigns, it’s not hard to see why lockdown may have had this impact. In addition to this, certain items being harder to come by in supermarkets has been scary for many of those struggling, as often individuals rely on “safe foods” to manage their intake. All of these factors can be major causes of stress for sufferers, and as eating disorders often serve as coping mechanisms, this can lead to further disordered behaviors – a deadly cycle. Due to this, individuals may engage more heavily in the likes of restricting or purging, and with this comes not only risks to physical health, but also decreased mental capacity. This means that the ‘ED voice’ (the voice of someone’s eating disorder) can grow louder as individuals lack the strength to fight against it, meaning it is harder to opt for recovery.
Whilst this unfortunately has been the case for many, others have taken lockdown as an opportunity to fully commit to their recovery and go “all in” on their journey to regaining their life. It has provided some with the chance to focus all their attention on healing their relationship with food and exercise after having been forced to take a break from work or school. This has involved embracing the challenges it has brought, like trying new foods when others have been unavailable, breaking rigid schedules and food rules, and learning to accept weight gain where applicable. One blogger shared her tips on keeping up recovery motivation over the period and discussed how she was tackling the anxieties that making the recovery choice brought (https://therecoverybean.wixsite.com/therecoverybean/post/how-to-keep-up-recovery-during-lockdown-cv19).
As we approach autumn (and in many areas the end of the current lockdown period) those battling eating disorders are continuing to face challenges. Those in recovery now have the opportunity to tackle fears such as eating out as well as confronting poor body image which, whilst difficult, will be very rewarding. Those still struggling may be better able to seek medical and therapeutic support however there are still barriers to access that may prevent this. At S.E.E.D we are continuing to hold our online support groups, drop-ins and clinics in order to ensure our services are accessible to all. The lockdown is not what any of us had in mind for 2020, however it has shown us just how strong we stand as a community and reminded us to always treat everyone with kindness and empower one another.
Written by Maisy Bland, S.E.E.D volunteer.