SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Health officials say the number of kids grappling with eating disorders is growing. Isolation, unstable environments, and online scrutiny are just some of the pandemic’s side effects that are pusing adolescents into unhealthy choices.
“With eating disorders we are seeing as young as ten or 11-year-olds clients that are reaching out to us,” Mieke Kramer, a licensed professional counselor with Solstice Point Counseling explained.
From adapting to remote environments to disruptions in all areas of socialization, the pandemic’s shift from in-person interaction to digital interface, removed every sense of normalcy kids counted on.
“When we think about the core issues attached to eating disorders, it’s really about control. It’s really about our self concept and our perception and what the world is communicating with us about what acceptable behavior and appearance is and during this pandemic we’ve really taken away in which we are in control,” Mary Jo Horton, the Behavioral Health Manager for Memorial Health described.
Horton said adolescents thrive on schedules. She said when many lost that consistency during the pandemic, they turned to what they could control: what they eat and how they look.
“Adolescents will use food as a way to cope. They could’ve been using food in a hoarding way, a binging way, a restrictive way and now that we’re starting to come out of the pandemic they’re in a way where it can be noticed,” Kramer added.
Local counselors said the first step to getting help can be as simple as adapting one part of your day-to-day routine.
“It starts with creating a food diary, and exercise diary, and also creating a diary of how many times you’re physically interacting with humans. We all have bouts of being anxious, we all have fears, we all have worries, this is a part of being human; and when we can look at it that way, having routine mental health checkups become expectant,” Horton said.
Open conversation and asking for help are some of the steps, experts said are key to helping kids develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.