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Eating disorders thriving in isolation, creating disastrous consequences: therapist

Last Updated Jan 31, 2021 at 11:08 am PST

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A therapist warning is that some of the deadliest mental illnesses, eating disorders, are on the rise

Kaela Scott says loneliness due to the pandemic is putting pressure on people who need help with their eating disorder

Scott adds the pandemic has also led to higher demand for services that are already overloaded, underfunded

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Social disconnection and loneliness coupled with a lack of control and loss of routine is having wide-ranging consequences for many Canadians with an eating disorder.

Just ahead of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Kaela Scott, a therapist with The Looking Glass specializing in eating disorders, says the isolation brought on by the pandemic is allowing eating disorders to thrive.

“Isolation perpetuates the behaviours that people engage in and makes them suffer in ways that are often much more extreme, and for a longer period of time,” said Scott.

As the pandemic puts a strain on our mental health, Scott explains feelings of anxiety are on the rise, and unfortunately, that’s when individuals with eating disorders typically have a surge in behaviours.


And with people using social media as a distraction during these times, it can be toxic for people in the community.

“When we are filled with that information constantly about how we need to change our body or how awful this ‘COVID-weight’ gain is and how we should be ashamed of what our bodies are, these individuals, take that information … and automatically applies it to them,” she says.

“Social media as we know, people talk about it as the ‘highlight reel.’ So not only are they seeing people living their best lives … there’s that component where we see people that seem to be unaffected … [When people with eating disorders see that] they feel like they should either be in that category or they’re automatically in the category of individuals who are less than, not enough, not beautiful enough, don’t have an interesting enough life.”

Scott adds that when coping mechanisms like exercise and general social interactions are taken away, it makes things like the past few months even more difficult.

“When people start to feel down on themselves and they’re struggling with an eating disorder, it goes right back to the body and to controlling themselves and their lives through food, whether that be through restricting or binging or purging.”

Since March, The Looking Glass foundation has seen demand for their peer support programs more than double.

According to the BC-based support organization, people seeking treatment through clinical programs are facing wait times of months, “if not years.”

And with the increased demand, Scott says more funding is needed.

“This crisis is one that has the highest mortality rate of any diagnosis in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. Every single dollar counts,” she says. “They don’t need help in a month. They don’t need to help in six months. They need help now.”

Monday marks the beginning of Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb. 1 to 7) – with eating disorder groups across Canada coming together to raise awareness and break down stigmas.

The Looking Glass Foundation will also be hosting an in-home fundraising experience on Feb. 25 to raise funds for eating disorder support.