How to manage eating disorders

Updated on 19 May 2020

If you have an eating disorder, the coronavirus outbreak might be causing additional stress. You're not alone – the charity Beat has seen a 50% increase in demand for its services in recent weeks and is providing invaluable support.

Changes in your daily routine due to social distancing and self-isolation might make you feel anxious and not in control. The media focus on food and supplies, including images of stockpiling, and discussion about which groups of people are especially vulnerable to infection might also be affecting you.

Your eating might be the one thing you feel you can control, so you may find your eating disorder is 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. If you’re a parent or carer who is supporting someone who has an eating disorder, we’ve published some additional advice.

For more detailed guidance about managing your eating disorder during the coronavirus outbreak, please visit the Beat website.


Useful tips

  1. Get information about coronavirus from the experts and make sure you follow the official advice about social distancing and self-isolation. You might like to bookmark the NHS website.
  2. Stay in touch with your GP, treatment team, therapist and other support workers by phone and online, if possible. They can give you advice about your immunity and any other health concerns you might have. Please be aware they might be very busy at the moment and, if any staff are off sick, you might have to speak to someone you don’t know.
  3. As you’re at home more, you might feel that your food behaviours might come under greater scrutiny from your family or housemates. Talk to them about this, if you can, so they understand your concerns and can give you the support you need.
  4. Stick to a routine. You might find it useful to write a daily schedule for work, study, meals, relaxation, chores and ‘virtual’ socialising. Structure exercise into your day but try not to exercise too much just because you have more time. Make sure you get enough sleep.
  5. Stay in touch with friends and family by phone, text, WhatsApp, Facebook and other digital channels, especially those who understand you and know how to make you feel better.
  6. 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. Your treatment team should be able to give you advice on revising your meal plan.
  7. If you’re not able to work or be in school, try to take this opportunity to slow down, do new things and spend time with your loved ones. Maybe you could sign up for an online course or revisit a hobby you used to enjoy?
  8. If you’re worried about coronavirus and its potential impact on your eating disorder, contact the Beat helpline or Beat Studentline. You might also find it useful to join one of Beat’s online support groups.

Useful websites

Beat

NHS

YoungMinds

Anorexia & Bulimia Care (ABC)

Read our articles about reducing stress and getting enough sleep. You might also find our podcasts with Michael Farquhar (healthy sleep patterns), Janet Wingrove (mindfulness) and Annie Mullins OBE (online communities) useful.

If you're a young person and you receive counselling or other professional support, read our advice.