Caring for a Surge: The Rising Need for Eating Disorder Treatment

A therapist counseling a client in a group setting

COVID-19 will continue to have a profound impact on our world and everyone in it. Although the number of individuals being diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID has drastically decreased, our lives are forever changed. The pandemic has shined a light on many of society’s pre-existing issues, including the need for increased mental health services. Over the last two years, many people have experienced issues stemming from the isolation of lockdown, our nation’s racial reckoning, and the loss of loved ones. We are in the center of a mental health crisis.

Eating disorders are one of the mental health issues that have been exacerbated during this time. The isolation, stress, and changes in routine have contributed to a monumental rise in eating disorders. We know there are so many people who need our help, and we are working tirelessly to deliver the treatment that each individual needs.

COVID’s Impact on Eating Disorders

Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and isolation. COVID lockdowns—while necessary to limit the spread of disease—made communication more difficult and hiding harmful behaviors easier. The trauma and stress associated with the pandemic also played a part in exacerbating already-present eating disorders or turning disordered eating into a full-blown eating disorder. 

These factors have resulted in more people than ever reaching out for help. If there is a silver lining of the surge, it is that people who may not have reached out for help previously are now seeking treatment. However, this increased demand for mental health services has overwhelmed healthcare systems—including eating disorder treatment centers.

Responding to the Eating Disorder Surge

In response to this eating disorders crisis, Accanto Health, through its brands The Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative, is working to expand treatment services. Our goals are to increase program capacity, change the scope of some programs to meet the changing needs of our clients, and provide greater support to those waiting for care. We will do everything in our power to help the growing number of people struggling with this life-threatening illness.

We recognize that every individual seeking care for their eating disorder has different needs. Eating disorder treatment providers can best serve all individuals if they expand their skills and treat all the co-occurring conditions a client may be facing. Clients may be experiencing multiple conditions, grief from the pandemic, societal oppression, and more. We aim to understand each client’s experience and meet them to support treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring conditions. We are passionate about expanding services in the right way to support long-term recovery for our clients.


About the Author

Dr. Mark Warren is the Chief Medical Officer of Accanto Health, the parent company of the newly merged Veritas Collaborative and The Emily Program. Accanto is focused on bringing the most advanced, evidence-based care to clients who are treated in a community of recovery. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, he completed his residency at Harvard Medical School. He is on Faculty at Case Medical School and teaches at University Hospitals of Cleveland and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is a past chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western University’s Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Warren is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a Fellow of the Academy of Eating Disorders, where he co-founded the SIG in Professionals and Recovery and the SIG for Males and Eating Disorders. He is a two-time recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and a winner of the Woodruff Award. He has published and spoken extensively on Males and Eating Disorders, Professionals and Recovery, and DBT and FBT in the treatment of eating disorders.

Dr. Warren was a founding member and co-chair of the Academy of Eating Disorders Medical Care Standards Committee and serves on the FEAST Medical Advisory Board and The Visiting Committee of the Case Western Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

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