Commentary: The pandemic can increase self-harming behaviors like eating disorders
Among the many behaviors we’ve seen during the increased stress of the pandemic is self-harming behaviors like eating disorders. Use of food as a coping mechanism is not new, but emotional eating is exacerbated in times of stress, and can quickly become unhealthy to the point of a disorder if we don’t seek better options.
Like many addictions, emotional eating provides only a very short-term solution when we are anxious, bored, or lonely. But the lasting effects create a sense of guilt and culminate in a cycle of shame from which it becomes increasingly difficult to remove ourselves. This is not unlike the use of drugs, alcohol, on-line gaming, shopping, and so on, which can all cross the line from recreational into dangerous very quickly when we drastically increase their use in response to stressors in our lives.
While emotional eating does have some notable differences from issues like Binge Eating Disorder, both are exacerbated by stressful feelings and a lack of healthier outlets to deal with those feelings. And therefore, both merit professional mental health care to offer recovery, which is entirely possible. If you or someone you know is living with an unhealthy relationship with food, encourage them to seek professional assistance, or better yet, have information available to support them in their journey to get help.