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Your Healthy Family: Rise in eating disorders in kids during pandemic

Posted at 7:42 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 07:42:19-04

Calls to a national eating disorder hot-line more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many eating disorders first start during childhood.

Amelia Frutiger was just 14-years-old when her eating disorder took hold.

"I just all of a sudden was like, 'I hate the way I look. I'm gonna change it,'" she said.

After two years of treatment, Amelia said it's something she still battles with.

"It's a voice in your head. It's something that's not you. And it's screaming at you constantly saying like, 'You can't do this,'" she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors in the U.S. said they've seen a rise in kids and teens like Frutiger being treated for eating disorders. Dr. David Little, a doctor involved in a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, told CNN "In 80 hospitals, we found a 25 percent increase in admissions for eating disorders after the pandemic began in March (2020) as compared to pre-pandemic trends."

One of those hospital admissions was Shelten. He was taken to Children's Hospital Colorado's Emergency Department when he lost a third of his body weight in just five months. His heart rate was so low, doctors told his family he was at risk for heart complications. Before COVID-19, he was an active high school football player.

"My coaches were very supportive. Just being there for me and helping me become a better person," he said.

After five months of intensive inpatient therapy, he's back on the field and wants to help other kids with their struggles.

"I also want to help people with mental health in general, and just encourage them to break the stigma that mental health isn't something that should be kept in the dark," he said.

There are multiple signs of eating disorders in kids that parents can look out for, including excessive weight loss or weight fluctuations, unusual eating habits, hair loss, and cavities.

The Director of Communications for the National Eating Disorders Association told CNN it's helpline call volume is still on the rise two years into this pandemic.

If you need help with an eating disorder, you can call or text the National Eating Disorders Association Hot-line at (800) 931-2237.