A rise in eating disorders during the pandemic, signs to look out for

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita area counseling centers say they are seeing more patients seeking treatment for eating disorders. It is a byproduct of the pandemic that has gone unnoticed by many.

“As providers, we’ve all been feeling it,” said Jenny Helms, owner of SOMA Therapy. “I’ve actually been on a waiting list for about four months.”

For Taylor Stout, a Wichita resident, she began dealing with body image issues at the young age of five.

“I would literally run laps around my house trying to lose weight,” said Stout.

Running laps eventually turned to more drastic actions.

“I really restricted, and I got very very thin, and it got to the point where I was hospitalized my heart rate was 32 in the hospital, and they would have to wake me up in the middle of the night to make sure I was alive,” Stout said.

Stout was diagnosed with an eating disorder at the age of 14.

“I’ve been in and out of treatment, multiple times,” she said.

Stout, 25, is in recovery and vocal with her story. During the pandemic, she noticed how many share similar struggles as hers.

“There’s so many people that deal with eating disorders or even disordered eating that has reached out to me for help,” she said.

Helms said the pandemic created a perfect storm for eating disorders.

“Increased use of social media and people relying on social media as a means of connection, eating disorders also thrive in isolation or secrecy,” Helms said. “Then, mainly just a general feeling an increase in uncertainty and anxiety.”

Helms said if you or a loved one’s life is starting to change due to thoughts about food and habits surrounding it, that can be a sign to reach out for help.

“Where you start to notice that whatever you’re doing with food, whatever that is, that is taking priority over other things in your life, or that you find yourself thinking about it often throughout the day, or organizing your life around whatever rituals or behaviors that you struggle with that’s a good indicator that you might need to get a further assessment,” Helms explained.

Stout is reminding others it’s best to get help sooner rather than later.

“We have this big stigma of like you have to be super sick with an eating disorder to get help when in reality you need to get help as soon as possible, as soon as you start seeing the symptom because it can go downhill very, very fast.”

Stout said it’s important to remember recovery is not a linear process.

If you or a loved one is struggling, you can reach out to SOMA Therapy at 316-201-6047.

The Mental Health Association also has resources to help with eating disorders, you can reach them at 316- 652-2590.

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