It is a challenging time for everyone, as worldwide deaths from COVID surpass the 1 million mark. In the US, deaths include more than 1700 deaths among US healthcare workers. Certainly, those with eating disorders are also strongly affected.
A surge in people seeking help in the ongoing pandemic reflects the fact that eating disorders thrive in isolation. As a small pilot study reported (see “The Impact of the Pandemic on Eating Disorders Patients” elsewhere in this issue), most patients were concerned about the risk of COVID-19 infection for themselves or their family, the possible negative impact on their school or work, and whether they could continue to get the treatment they needed. More than a third had increased impairment from ED symptoms, and a small group said the stress made it harder to stop grazing behavior and emotional eating. And, when asked about reaching out to others, a group with AN were ambivalent about communicating with the help of social media and video calls.
For those treating patients with eating disorders, several steps seemed helpful for reducing their own continuing stress, such as structuring their day and developing a connected and healthy lifestyle.
A brighter note is that the race to develop a safe and effective vaccine is proceeding at an extraordinary rate. Several promising products are now in Stage 3 trials. It now appears that effective vaccines will be developed in a fraction of the time needed to develop them in the past. This is greatly encouraging. The use of mitigation strategies remains critical, however, especially as fall and winter approach in the northern hemisphere. The rapid rollout of effective vaccines will be another major healthcare achievement, one that will likely require much or most of 2021 to achieve.