The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a drastic impact on mental health. Specifically, anorexia has increased dramatically in prevalence and severity. The present study examined the subjective experiences of individuals suffering from anorexia during the COVID-19 pandemic by collecting and analyzing internet posts published between March 2020 and April 2021.
Three themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: (1) Between restriction and punishment – COVID-19 enabled a smoother dialogue between anorexic individuals’ ascetic inner reality and outer reality; (2) Between the visible and the invisible – the social reality created by the pandemic affected anorexic individuals in opposing ways in regard to their ability to conceal their body and eating habits. For anorexic individuals living with family members, COVID-19 made hiding anorexia symptoms difficult. Conversely, anorexic individuals who lived alone were more likely to hide symptoms and adhere to anorexia practices; (3) Between isolation and loneliness – social distancing provided a convenient pathway toward increased isolation and hiding behavior, which led to increased anorexia symptoms.
Findings are discussed from a psychodynamic perspective, using the ideas of Freud, Winnicott and other thinkers.
Clinical Psychologist, Eating Disorders Specialist
Eating Disorders Clinic, Director, Meuhedet HMO.