Psychologist seeing increase in eating disorders among teens during pandemic

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult on almost everyone, including teenagers.

The National Eating Disorders Association says it has seen a 54% increase in helpline calls since the pandemic started. A Psychologist with Park Center, Inc. says they have seen an increase in eating disorders among teenagers.

Park Center, Inc. psychologist, Dr. Laura Oyer HSPP, says teens who lost sports or hanging out with friends and are now cooped up are the ones most at risk.

“Even things like being able to see the reflection in the Zoom calls. We have been on Zoom for a lot of this [pandemic] for different school things and activities. So, having to see ones reflection all the time can be really stressful and kind of kick off some body image things,” Oyer said.

Warning signs of an eating disorder can include:

  • Changes in weight
    • “Just because there’s not changes in weight does not mean that the eating disorder isn’t happening,” Oyer said.
  • Acting differently around food
    • “So, maybe they’re not eating as much. Maybe they tell you they’re going on a diet or trying to limit their food intake. Maybe you notice that they’re not eating at certain times but you find them overeating or eating in secret other times. Hording food,” Oyer said.
  • Frequently going to the bathroom shortly after meals
  • Getting really intense or obsessive with an exercise routine

“I would encourage loved ones or parents [that] if you are suspicious, even a little bit, [to] get an assessment. Because early intervention is one of these best predictors of a positive outcome when it comes to eating disorder treatment,” Oyer said.

After an assessment, Oyer says a multi-disciplinary team will be used during treatment. This includes: dietitian, therapist, family therapist (for adolescents), physician and a physiatrist or a medication prescriber.

If you or someone you know needs help from the National Eating Disorders Association, call the organization at 800-931-2237.

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