More teenage girls with eating disorders have ended up in the ER during the pandemic

During the pandemic, emergency rooms across the country have reported an increase in visits from teenage girls struggling with eating di...


During the pandemic, emergency rooms across the country have reported an increase in visits from teenage girls struggling with eating disorders and other disorders, including anxiety, depression and stress, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report provides new details about the types of mental health issues affecting a generation of teenagers.

Mental health experts speculate that the pandemic has made some young people feel isolated, alone and out of control. Some coped by seeking control over their own behavior, said Emily Pluhar, a pediatric psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

“You take a very vulnerable group and you create a global pandemic,” she said. “Eating disorders are out of control.”

In the CDC study, the agency said the proportion of eating disorder visits had doubled among teenage girls, triggered by pandemic-related risk factors, such as “lack of structure in the daily routine , emotional distress and changes in food availability”.

The agency said the increase in tics was “atypical” because the disorder often presents earlier and is more common in boys. But the CDC, reinforcing the speculation of other clinicians and researcherssaid some teenage girls may develop tics after seeing the phenomenon spread widely on social media, including TikTok.

“Pandemic stress or exposure to severe tics, highlighted on social media platforms, may be associated with increased visits with tics and tic-like behaviors among adolescent girls,” wrote the CDC.

In a related report, the CDC also said on Friday that the increase in visits for mental health issues occurred as emergency rooms reported a sharp overall decline in visits during the pandemic. Compared to 2019, overall visits fell 51% in 2020 and 22% in 2021, declines the agency attributed in part to families delaying care and a decline in physical injuries from activities like swimming and racing.

There has been a decline in the overall number of emergency room visits for mental health problems among all young people, up to the age of 17. Increases have occurred for specific diseases, and particularly among adolescent girls.

More broadly, the increase in adolescent mental distress appears to have intensified during the pandemic, but it started earlier. Youth ER visits linked to depression, anxiety and similar issues increased 28% from 2007 to 2018, according to another report by the surgeon general.

In its Friday report, the CDC said mental health-related ED visits for teens fell in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019. But the CDC also said the data was nuanced and the patterns of visitation for boys, as well as girls, depended on the specific mental condition and period.

“These gender differences could represent differences in health care seeking needs, recognition, and behavior,” the CDC wrote.

For teenage girls, weekly emergency room visits increased for eating disorders and tics in 2020; and for these obsessive-compulsive conditions and disorders in 2021. In January 2022, the CDC said there was also an increase in problems related to anxiety, trauma, and stress.

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Newsrust - US Top News: More teenage girls with eating disorders have ended up in the ER during the pandemic
More teenage girls with eating disorders have ended up in the ER during the pandemic
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