If you’re living with an eating disorder, the recent outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has likely added to your stress levels. In addition to the anxiety and fear surrounding the outbreak, there are unique ways it may trigger eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. Here are some triggers to be aware of, and how to continue working towards recovery.
Many people have expressed fears over lack of food during the coronavirus outbreak. People have been buying more at the grocery store and “stockpiling” food as a precautionary measure. This can trigger eating disorder thoughts in many ways.
Access to Large Amounts of Food
For those who struggle with binge eating, having access to a lot of extra food can be difficult. Although the stockpiling behavior we’ve seen is an irrational and unnecessary response to the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend having an emergency two-week supply of food and other essentials. This will ensure that you have access to food if you get sick and need to recover, or need to stay home to avoid exposure to the virus.
How to Cope:
If you struggle with binge eating, talk to your mental health provider about managing triggers while staying prepared according to CDC guidelines. This might mean keeping extra food in a hidden place that is harder to access, or asking family and friends to store your extra food in their homes.
Disruptions to a Meal Plan
As more people are buying groceries during the outbreak, certain foods may be out of stock temporarily. For those following a specific meal plan in recovery, these shortages at the grocery store could disrupt that plan.
How to Cope:
If you’re concerned about accessing specific foods on your meal plan during the coronavirus outbreak, talk to your treatment team about how to modify the meal plan and adapt to a changing situation.
Anxiety Over Potential Food Shortages
Concerns over a potential food shortage may cause some individuals to eat less. For those who have struggled with anorexia or restrictive eating behaviors, trying to conserve your food supply can endanger your recovery.
How to Cope:
It’s important to get the facts about the coronavirus outbreak. At the time of this article’s publication, grocery stores and pharmacies remain open. No one is being restricted from purchasing essentials. Therefore, there is no reason to try to ration or conserve food since you will be able to go to the grocery store.
Many gyms and fitness centers have closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On top of this, many state and local governments are recommending that people who are at a higher risk from coronavirus stay in their homes as much as possible and avoid large social gatherings. These factors could lead to worries about getting enough exercise.
How to Cope:
If you’re currently in recovery from an eating disorder, ask your treatment provider how you can reintegrate exercise into your life during the coronavirus outbreak. If you are not able to safely exercise at this time, come up with some activities to distract yourself from anxious thoughts about it.
Stress and Boredom Triggers
Simply being stressed out about the coronavirus can be a trigger for eating disorder thoughts. Likewise, being stuck at home if your regular social events have been cancelled can lead to boredom, which is a common trigger for emotional eating.
Social Distancing and Isolation
You may not be able to connect in-person with members of your treatment team during this time. Additionally, being at home leaves you with more time to “sit with” negative emotions. You may find it hard to manage your response to these emotions without the ability to attend social gatherings and distract yourself.
How to Cope:
Although you may not be able to go see your therapist in-person, you can still use technology to keep in touch. Try an online counseling session over video chat to talk about the challenges to recovery you’re facing right now.
Your self-care routine is also a vital tool that can get you through this stressful time. If you haven’t already, write out a list of self-care activities that you can turn to when you are feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions. Continue to engage in self-care activities until your emotions are under control.
Managing COVID-19 Triggers
If you’re facing any of these triggers right now, you may feel like your eating disorder recovery is being threatened. Luckily, there are ways you can cope and continue to work toward recovery. Use these methods and work with your treatment team to stay positive and well.
Seeds of Hope is committed to finding ways to continue delivering quality care during this uncertain time. Therefore, we have implemented the ability to offer the same services in all of our outpatient locations during the current crisis using teletherapy videoconferencing technology. If you would like to schedule an online counseling session with our eating disorder treatment specialists, call us at (610) 644-6464 or fill out a contact form.