Objectives This study examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents with eating disorders, mainly anorexia nervosa, and Bulimia nervosa, using data collection pre-pandemic and during the pandemic in the outpatient clinics in Sidra hospital, Qatar.
Methods Medical records of the patients with eating disorders were reviewed for the period between August 2017 and April 2022. Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa was done using the DSM-V criteria. For the purpose of this study, August 2017 to March 2020 is considered ‘pre-pandemic’ and April 2020 to April 2022 is ‘post-pandemic’.
The clinical assessment in the pre-pandemic period was carried out face to face in the clinic, while a hybrid model of clinical care that uses telephone consultations and a limited number of patients’ physical appointments was adapted during the pandemic period. The number of clinical appointments increased gradually as the number of COVID-19 cases decreased in the country.
The study compared the numbers of diagnosed patients with eating disorders between the two mentioned periods and investigated their specific characteristics (including age, gender, and specific type of eating disorder) and associated comorbidities, like depression and anxiety.
Results In the pre-pandemic period, 58 adolescents aged between 8–18 years old were assessed and diagnosed with an eating disorder. Out of the 58 diagnosed with an eating disorder, 16 patients were diagnosed with co-morbid depression and 11 patients with anxiety. During the pandemic, 79 adolescents were diagnosed with an eating disorder and 37 out of the 53 were diagnosed with co-morbid depression. The majority of cases were adolescent females above 12 years of age. This study shows a 27% increase in the number of cases diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia nervosa during the pandemic. In addition, there’s a rise in the number of associated psychiatric comorbidities, including depression, anxiety, and other conditions like irritability and inattention.
Conclusions This study showed an increased rate of eating disorders and co-morbid mental health diseases in Qatar during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase of young people with an eating disorder could be attributed to disruptions of their routines, quarantine, and interruptions of treatment. Our results agree with previous research suggesting that mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance misuse, PTSD, and suicidal tendencies increase in times of economic instability and natural disasters.1 long term impact must be further examined to prevent long term detrimental mental health effects on the young generation and the health care system in Qatar.
Guerra O, Eboreime E. The impact of economic recessions on depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders and illness outcomes—A scoping review. Behavi Sciences. 2021;11(9):119. doi:10.3390/bs11090119
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