To describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on help-seeking behaviors among individuals with eating disorders and caregivers.
We analyzed service utilization data from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). We compared the number of contacts and symptom frequency between the pandemic period and previous years.
NEDIC was contacted 609 times during March 1-April 30, 2020 (72.1% individuals affected by disordered eating, 20.4% caregivers). The number of total contacts significantly increased from 2018 to 2019 and 2018 to 2020 (X(3) = 50.34, p < .001). Among affected individuals (80.4% women), the number of contacts during the pandemic period was significantly higher (n = 439; X(2) = 92.74, p < .001) compared to 2018 (n = 197) and 2019 (n = 312). There were higher rates of eating disorder symptoms, anxiety, and depression in 2020 compared to previous years. Thematic analysis of instant chats from the pandemic year revealed four emerging themes: 1) lack of access to treatment, 2) worsening of symptoms, 3) feeling out of control, and 4) need for support.
These findings point toward the impact of COVID-19 in individuals affected by disordered eating and hold implications for service delivery during times of crises.
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