How The Pandemic Affected Teen Eating Disorders

The Coronavirus pandemic changed the lives of many individuals. Eating Disorders and unhealthy eating habits have become increasingly common in teenagers after the traumatic events of the pandemic.


The act of constantly measuring yourself in the hopes of losing weight is a common tell of someone with an eating disorder.

By Brenna Buchanan, Co-Editor in Chief

When the Coronavirus pandemic first hit in the spring of 2020, students’ lives were forever shifted to something no one had experienced before. Something that increased heavily during the pandemic was the way people eat. The quarantine era was a time when everyone was stuck inside with nothing to do. This motivated people to work out and attempt to eat healthier. Unfortunately, this period brought up several less healthy habits that have continued to evolve outside of the quarantine.

People began to focus only on counting their calories or not eating at all. According to a Forbes report, out of data collected from 80 hospitals, there was a 25 percent increase in the number of adolescent eating disorders during the pandemic since March of 2020. Over the several months of the pandemic, the National Eating Disorder Association helpline has reported a 40 percent increase in calls.

You can see someone on social media and dream of their body and how they look. It makes the young generation question their body with unrealistic expectations of how a body should look.

— Catalina Garcia

There are several types of eating disorders that may be common in teens. Millions of people suffer from eating disorders each year and each person’s case can be different.

Anorexia: Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by extreme weight loss, difficulty maintaining an appropriate height to weight ratio, and age to weight ratio. Those diagnosed with anorexia often restrict themselves from consuming high-calorie meals and exercising compulsively. This eating disorder can affect people of all ages and genders.

Bulimia: Also known as bulimia nervosa, bulimia is a serious eating disorder. Those who suffer from bulimia often find themselves binge-eating or consuming large amounts of food at a time, and then purging or getting rid of extra calories in unhealthy ways. Some will regularly self-induce vomiting or use laxities to try and undo their binge eating.

Binge-eating disorder: Binge-eating is found to be the most common eating disorder in the United States, especially among teenagers. This disorder is very similar to both anorexia and bulimia in the way that people will eat large amounts of unhealthy food in a short period of time. Those who suffer from binge-eating disorder do not purge or count calories like other disorders but often feel a lack of control over their own eating habits. They will often feel ashamed and guilty after consuming a meal but won’t restrict their eating.

Eating disorders may be a direct consequence of the brain. It has been found that depression and anxiety are common mental health disorders found in those with eating disorders. Eating disorders largely affect one’s physical health and put those who have an eating disorder at risk for developing other more serious medical problems.

It is important to understand how social media influences eating disorders and body dysmorphia. The concept of social media enhancing body dysmorphia has gone hand-in-hand for several years. According to D’amore Mental Health, since the Coronavirus pandemic, social media usage has increased by 61 percent. Body image is the beliefs and feelings about the way you look.

The reason so many people have issues with body image on social media sites like Instagram is that it is well known that several celebrities and Instagram influencers alter their bodies in pictures using Photoshop. The pressure to look flawless in posts on social media drives people to alter their images and start to dislike the way they look in person.

According to The Orion, spending more than three hours a day on social media increases the probability of a teen suffering from mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia. Although it is more common for adolescents to be effect by social media expectations, adults are very susceptible to the pressures to look a certain way as well.

Whether you have a positive or negative body image has a great effect on the probability of having an eating disorder. Those with a poor body image often have a lack of confidence and can be found comparing the people they see on social media to themselves.

Body dysmorphia is a mental health condition where the person has a hard time not thinking about the flaws in their appearance. They often feel very embarrassed, ashamed, or anxious. Some may even go through numerous cosmetic procedures to change the way they look in hopes of “fixing” their flaws.

How have these eating habits affected teenagers during the pandemic? While students were forced to stay home for online school, many students found themselves in depression situations at home alone. Without physical interaction with their peers, teenage use of social media increased and the so-called “importance” of one’s online image became detrimental.

“Being isolated gave us the opportunity to really focus on ourselves and that caused us to observe every insecurity and obsess over it for months which then had negative effects on our mental health and body image,” Senior Madie Boyle said.

Once a person is diagnosed with an eating disorder they can be treated. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment can be administered by a mental health professional, a registered dietitian, a medical or dental specialist, or a family member that can help with at-home treatment. A health care professional will prepare a treatment plan and work with the patient and family to find the best options. The main goals of the treatment are to normalize eating patterns and achieve a healthy weight.

Therapy is a great way to improve one’s relationship with eating and body image. There are a couple of types of therapy that are considered influential for those suffering from eating disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy, family-based therapy, and group cognitive-behavioral therapy.

“Therapy helped me develop a better relationship with myself and helped to bring my family closer together,” Senior Kris Lawuya said.

Eating disorders can cripple a person’s self-worth and it is often hard for those who suffer from them to come forward with their struggles. It is very hard to prevent such things as body dysmorphia and eating disorders, but being around supportive individuals is very impactful.

“You aren’t in it alone. There are several people even if you think you are the only, that are going through something similar. It isn’t easy and it isn’t an overnight thing, but it does get better,” Senior Sydney Stribling said.