COVID-19 Causes Spike in Mental Health Concerns and Eating Disorders


A spike in mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and tic issues, has been happening since COVID-19 began. New studies show that some emergency room visits concerning eating disorders have doubled in teenage girls. Tic disorder visits have nearly tripled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Tic disorders are described as involuntary movements, sounds, and repeated twitches.

Teenage “TikTok” Tics

In their last report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said that eating disorders could be caused by stress-related to COVID-19, like lack of daily routine and structure. They also stated that the spike in emergency room visits for mental health concerns, specifically tic disorders, was abnormal as tic disorders typically begin in early childhood and mainly affect males. Researchers suggest that subjection to major tics on the social media platform, TikTok, could be related to the spike in the disorder. “These types of tics are not the same as Tourette syndrome, which is a tic disorder mostly diagnosed in younger kids. In addition, tic disorders can be triggered by stress, according to Dr. Aiya Aboubakr and Sony Salzman with ABC News.

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Numerous large pediatric health organizations put out a national emergency for adolescent and children’s mental health in 2021. There has been a spike in their mental health concerns in the last 10 years. As of 2018, the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24 was suicide. These concerns worsened due to the stressors related to COVID-19. These issues have disrupted daily living structures, family, and safety stability. Elizabeth Thompson, CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association, stated that LGBTQ kids are at risk for suicide more than others. In addition, the CDC discovered a decrease in emergency room visits for all reasons in the last two years, according to a second report released on Friday.

Experts warn the lowered rate of visits might be because of people’s fear of visiting any medical centers due to COVID-19. Despite the drop, there was an increase in emergency room visits for drug poisoning, firearm injuries, self-harm, and eating disorders. The eating disorder visits were more common in adolescent girls. Studies show that visits to the emergency department for the obsessive-compulsive disorder have spiked from 2021 to 2022 as depression visits also increased in 2021.

Dr. Neha Chaudhary, a child psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, stated that she was not surprised by the report’s results. She reported that the results were consistent with what she was seeing in her clinical practice and what she hears from adolescents directly. In addition, she stated that many adolescents with pre-existing conditions, such as anxiety and depression, expressed that their symptoms worsened since COVID-19 began, as others with past conditions have said they have experienced symptoms again.

Eating Disorders in Adolescents

According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect at least 9% worldwide. Nearly 28.8 million United States citizens develop an eating disorder in their lifetime. Diet pills or laxatives are used by 35-37% of teenage girls, and they also practice crash dieting, forced vomiting, and fasting. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, younger people with eating disorders have an increased chance of dying by 10 times compared to other people their age. There are many different signs of an eating disorder. Some of these signs include food restriction, mood changes, fluctuations in weight, and social withdrawal. Studies state that unfortunate experiences in childhood, like the 140,000 kids in the United States that lost a caregiver or parent due to COVID-19, could contribute to the impact of their mental health conditions. Changes to social communications can also have a negative effect on kids and teenagers.

Written by Marrissa Kay
Edited by Jeanette Vietti


ABC News: Teenage girls had increased risk of developing eating disorders during pandemic: CDC; by Dr. Aiya Aboubakr and Sony Salzman
Philly Voice: An influx of adolescent girls have sought emergency treatment for mental health conditions during COVID, CDC finds; by Maggie Mancini
New York Post: Study says COVID-19 causes mental health issues, eating disorders; by Julia Musto

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of UNICEF Ukraine’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of franchise opportunities’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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