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Lincoln behavioral health center sees increase in eating disorders during pandemic

The mental health staff says it’s young people, ages 12-17, their office sees being affected...
The mental health staff says it’s young people, ages 12-17, their office sees being affected the most, battling with disorders like anorexia, bulimia and in some cases, binge-eating.(KOLN)
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 7:03 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Hotline calls to the National Eating Disorder Association have gone up 70 to 80% during the pandemic. During this time, Pine Lake Behavioral Health in Lincoln tells us they’re also seeing an increase in people dealing with eating disorders.

The mental health staff says it’s young people, ages 12-17, their office sees being affected the most, battling with disorders like anorexia, bulimia and in some cases, binge-eating.

With the last week of February being National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we’re hearing from a counselor who’s offering some advice.

Some red flags to look out for she says are dramatic weight loss, dental issues and sometimes, a change in skin color or hair loss.

If you’re loved one begins making up excuses on why they aren’t eating or if you witness them eat too much at one time can sometimes be warning signs that they’re struggling. Professionals say some people dealing with eating disorders may be using it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress in this time.

The main thing she says to do is to meet your loved one where they are in a compassionate way.

“If they’re willing to eat peppers and salads, okay, then load your house with those peppers and salads. As a clinician, allow the professionals to get to the root cause of it because there’s more of a mental health background then they even understand when it comes to an eating disorder,” said Stephanie Delgado, mental health counselor with Pine Lake Behavioral Health.

Delgado tells us sometimes, it may be better to just ask your loved one how they would like to be helped and supported.

Lately, Delgado says, facilities offering help and treatment for those with eating disorders have been having waiting lists of up to six months, so finding ways to help at home first may be better in the long run.

A few things she says not to do is blame yourself or your loved ones for their eating disorder, don’t try and keep up with their progress by weighing them and offer to be a listening ear, as many may actually be willing to talk out their issues.

“‘How can I help you today? Is there anything I can do to support you?’ Don’t just identify them as someone with an eating disorder because they’re so much more than their eating disorder. They are someone who just wants to navigate this life and just doesn’t know how to do that in the best way,” Delgado tells 10/11.

If you suspect your own child may be dealing with an eating disorder, Delgado says inviting them to join you on a shopping trip to the grocery store may also be a good idea.

Ultimately, if you’re concerned for a loved one or yourself, Delgado says seek professional help like seeing a counselor, attending a support group or making an appointment to manage the disorder with medication.

Delgado says keep in mind, it’s common that eating disorders start as mental health issues and might stem from one’s lack of self esteem, but getting help sooner than later may prevent lifelong effects eating disorders can cause.

Even though Pine Lake Behavioral Health doesn’t specialize solely on treating patients with eating disorders, they do offer support teams and counseling.

If you or a loved one needs help, visit HERE.

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