Advice for young people on how to manage their eating disorders

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

If you have an eating disorder, the coronavirus outbreak might be causing additional stress. Not being able to see your friends or follow your usual daily routine for many months might have made you feel anxious and not in control. Going back to full-time education might have brought new concerns. You might also be worried about whether you’re vulnerable to infection and be finding the increasing amount of news stories and social media posts about food and exercise distressing.

Your eating might be the one thing you feel you can control, so you might find your eating disorder more challenging than ever. You’re not alone in feeling this way so the Good Thinking team has created this article to help you manage your eating disorder at this difficult time. We also spoke to Beat for our podcast.

For more detailed guidance about managing your eating disorder during the coronavirus outbreak, please visit the Beat website. If you’d like to speak to a trained support worker, you can contact the Beat Youthline on 0808 801 0711 or the Beat Studentline on 0808 801 0811. You can also get tips from young people on the Beat website.


Useful tips

  1. Work with your family to get a routine into your day. Keep a diary for the things you will do each day – learning, meals, exercising, socialising and having fun!
  2. Not being able to meet up with all your friends in the way you'd like to is extremely hard. Make sure you have regular contact with them online and via messaging apps or call them for a chat. Now that lockdown restrictions have been changed, you might be able to see more people – you can find details of what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website. Try to keep in touch with friends who understand you and make you feel better and avoid having contact with anyone who might encourage your eating disorder.
  3. It’s okay to feel upset about what is happening. You might have had exams cancelled, left school without saying goodbye properly and be worried about the future. Talk to your family about how you’re feeling and tell them how they can help you. They will understand and want to know what to do for the best.
  4. Now that your usual routine is no longer possible, you might feel increased urges to exercise more. Let your family and treatment team know how you feel and ask them to help you design an appropriate structured exercise programme.
  5. There’s a lot of information about coronavirus out there but not all of it is factually correct. Try to get updates from the experts, such as the NHS, and think carefully about any posts you see on social media. You might find it useful to only check the news and social media once or twice a day.
  6. If you have regular appointments with your treatment team, these might have to be rescheduled due to staff sickness or take place online rather than in person. This might feel very unsettling. Your treatment team will do all they can to ensure your treatment continues and will work with you to make sure your care plan is up to date. Read our article about how counselling and other support could be affected by COVID-19.
  7. Find out how your physical health care, including regular health checks you might have, will be managed during this time. Ask your family to help you if you’re not sure who to contact.
  8. You might be worried about getting coronavirus symptoms and how this might affect you if your health is weakened. Follow the Government’s advice to protect yourself (e.g. Hands. Face. Space) and talk with your treatment team about your concerns and what else you might need to do.
  9. Try to be flexible about your safe foods and the brands you buy as you might not be able to get everything at the shops. Take advantage of this time when life is slowing down to try different ways of doing things, including the foods you eat. Your dietitian will be able to help you with this.
  10. Being cooped up at home with family might be stressful at times – why not talk with your family about how you can all be kind and look out for each other? You might worry they will put the spotlight on your eating disorder – let them know how you feel. This is a time when family relationships and understanding can really improve and deepen – try to make the most of it!

Useful websites

Beat

My Mind TV (Eating Disorders video)

NHS

YoungMinds

Anorexia & Bulimia Care

Mind

Read our articles about how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak and how to reduce stress and how to deal with the stress of exam results.