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Post-COVID-19 increase in eating disorders addressed by new guidelines

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The new guidelines in the UK will hopefully help avoid hospitalizations for eating disorders. via Getty Images JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP
  • Eating disorders affect about 1 in 10 people during their lifetime.
  • If eating disorders are diagnosed and treated early, people can fully recover.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the increase in eating disorders globally.
  • There has been an 84% increase in hospitalizations in the UK in the last 5 years. New guidelines from the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists aim to help healthcare professionals diagnose eating disorders earlier to avoid hospitalization.

According to estimates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 700,000 people He has an eating disorder (ED) in the UK. Many people with ED do not seek health care, so NICE states that this is almost certainly underestimated.

in the United States, Mental Health America reports 20 million women and 10 million men will experience clinically significant ED at some point in their lives.

According to a worldwide comprehensive review8.4% of women and 2.2% of men will have ED during their lifetime.

Eating disorders include:

The new analysis from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) highlights an alarming increase in hospital admissions for eating disorders in the UK, with an 84% increase over the past 5 years.

The greatest increase was in girls under the age of 18 and young women. Fewer boys and teens are hospitalized for eating disorders, but their numbers have more than doubled in 5 years.

“Men represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa and may be at a higher risk of death, partly because they are diagnosed later, as most people assume that men do not have an eating disorder.”

Mary Tantilloprofessor of clinical nursing, University of Rochester, MA, and director of the Western New York Comprehensive Eating Disorders Care Center

This increase in emergency rooms and hospitalizations is not limited to the UK. a review Studies conducted between 2000 and 2018 revealed that the number of diagnoses worldwide more than doubled during that time. And a study Between January 2018 and December 2020, it found a 100% increase in inpatient EDs of 3.25 million people in the United States.

RCPsych emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and intervention to prevent hospitalizations. People with ED often appear healthy with normal blood tests, so signs that an ED has become potentially life-threatening are often missed in primary care and emergency settings.

RCPsych has published a new article to help healthcare professionals spot signs that the emergency room is causing serious health problems. Medical Emergency Guidelines for Eating Disorders (MEED).

Dr. Dasha NichollsThe Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, who presided over the development of the guidelines, said:

“Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating do not discriminate and can affect people of all ages and genders. These are mental health disorders, not a ‘lifestyle choice’ and we should not underestimate how serious they are.”

While the guidelines are aimed at medical health professionals, they also contain helpful advice for caregivers and patients.

“There has been a shocking increase in hospital admissions of people with eating disorders, which is exacerbated by the devastating impact of the pandemic on the public’s mental health.”

— Tom Quinn, external affairs manager for the UK eating disorders association To beat

As early as May 2020, UN He highlighted the possible mental health effects of the pandemic. Since then, many studies have shown how the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues. Tantillo explained the impact of COVID-19 on eating disorders. Medical News Today:

“[People with EDs] They do not get along with inconsistency, ambiguity, uncertainty, and unpredictability. So you can imagine the devastating impact of COVID. [has had] in people with ED. Even in patients who were quite well before the pandemic, disease onset and relapses increased during the pandemic.”

Dr. Tantillo also said that social isolation creates opportunities for young adults to connect with unhelpful social media resources, which increases the risk of ED. He highlighted the sharp rise in the US: “National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Hotline has experienced a 107% increase in contacts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Along with these pressures has been the challenge of accessing treatment during the pandemic, as Tom Quinn points out, “The dramatic increase in hospitalization shows that people are not getting treatment fast enough, with patients admitted to the hospital becoming too bad to be treated in community care settings.”

“If we are to stop the eating disorder epidemic in its tracks, it is vital that this guidance reaches healthcare professionals urgently and that the government supports them with the necessary resources to implement them.”

— Doctor Nicholls

Clinicians and charities in the UK and US have welcomed the new guidelines. Tom Quinn felt they would help with the diagnosis: “The MEED provides broader guidance on the assessment and management of all eating disorders that could lead to patients presenting as a medical emergency,” he said.

Tantillo agrees: “I appreciate the development of the Medical Emergencies Guide to Eating Disorders. This is necessary and essential because there is still very little education on eating disorders by primary care and behavioral health providers (during their initial training and on the job).

“Front office staff in hospitals need this information to debunk many myths about eating disorders,” he added.

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