The emergence of COVID-19 has created new challenges for people with eating disorders, their families and loved ones, and for our health services, which are under increased pressure.
This document aims to provide guidance to clinicians around continuing to support clients with eating disorders in light of COVID-19.
Now more than ever it is important that we support clients and their families within the community as best we can, as demand on acute health services such as hospitals increases. It is important that the support and treatment of individuals with eating disorders is maintained due to high risk of deterioration. It is recommended that treatment and recovery is continued even at times when a client is unable to physically attend their treatment service.
ARE MY CLIENTS WITH EATING DISORDERS AT HIGHER RISK?
To date there has not been any specific data suggesting that clients with eating disorders are at increased risk from COVID-19. However, it is clear that people who are frail and who have co-morbidity, and especially cardiorespiratory co-morbidity, are at increased risk of severe forms of the illness and death. We also understand that chronic malnutrition impairs immunity, and that eating disorders clients often do not mount a typical febrile response. Therefore, diagnosis of infective complications can be delayed. Given these factors, we need to be extremely mindful of clients with eating disorders being particularly vulnerable during this COVID-19 pandemic. For further information about the physical risks of COVID-19 to people with eating disorders, please refer to COVID-19 and Eating Disorders: Information for Primary Care Practitioners
The emergence of COVID-19 can have significant impacts on mental health in addition to current eating disorder symptoms, and may contribute to deterioration in mental state. Our clients with eating disorders and their supports, may be experiencing additional anxiety about access to adequacy and variety of groceries. People with eating disorders often have significantly higher energy needs and also experience rigid thoughts about what types of foods are acceptable. Majority of people with eating disorders (60-80%) also have co-occurring anxiety disorders, and might be experiencing a deterioration in their symptoms as a result of chaotic and overcrowded supermarkets, limited access to essential items, and anxiety and uncertainty we are experiencing around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 and Eating Disorders: Information for Mental Health Clinicians and Services