UTAH (ABC4) – According to a recent report from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emergency visits for eating disorders among girls ages 12 to 17 doubled throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

Eating disorders vary. The most common types include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. 

As noted by the University of Utah, eating disorders are considered the deadliest mental illness, with one eating disorder related death occurring every 52 minutes in America alone. A total of 9% of the U.S. population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. 

So, the question lingers: what has influenced the surge of this deadly disease among young girls during the pandemic? Kasey Goodpaster, PhD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic said that there could be a few reasons to consider.

“I think about the mental health crisis that’s affected our entire population and the isolation of the pandemic brought about,” she said. “But, also some specifics around children and teens and their social media usage, how that then affects their body image and might too affect their relationship with food.”

In order to tell if your child is suffering from an eating disorder, Goodpaster recommends keeping an eye out for various telltale signs. Take note of any negative self-talk your child engages in regarding their body, make sure they are not frequently checking their weight, and notice if they become preoccupied with food or start to avoid eating around others. 

Additionally, someone suffering from an eating disorder may start exercising excessively and could showcase physical changes such as weight loss or weight gain. 

Goodpaster stresses the importance for parents to be gentle in the way they communicate with their child. It’s important to refrain from any comments directed at body size or shape, even if it’s in the form of a compliment. 

“Parents should also not make critical comments about their own bodies or other people’s bodies because those comments are very easily internalized by children and teens. They most benefit from parents modeling body image and self-love,” she said.

As eating disorders can evolve quickly, Goodpaster emphasizes the importance of early intervention and medical attention.