COVID-19 and lockdown has created the 'perfect storm' for disordered eating, clinician, researcher and Associate Professor with LaTrobe University Leah Brennan says.
Dr Brennan, a clinical health, education and development psychologist who specialises in eating, weight and body image, is working to build up services in the area to meet the growing need.
"Eating disorders in particular seem to have been impacted by COVID, there's been a huge increase in both prevalence and severity of eating disorders over the past 18 months," she said.
Dr Brennan said a range of factors were contributing to the rise in eating disorders.
"COVID restrictions are impacting on mental health broadly but in terms of eating disorders specifically I think people having less access to friends and social networks and supports, often more time or on the flip-side more time pressure depending on how people have been affected, and less structured routines which tends to impact on people's physical activity habits and on their eating routines," Associate Professor Brennan said.
"Those things combined are a bit of a perfect storm for people developing increasing concerns around weight."
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Associate Professor Brennan said people with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.
"We see high and increasing prevalence of eating disorders across weight ranges but contrary to what people might think, the highest prevalence of eating disorders occurs in those who are at a higher weight," she said.
"While our image often of someone with an eating disorder is of a young, thin, female, that actually doesn't represent the diversity of people who do experience eating disorders."
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