(WEHT) – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of nearly everyone in the United States, but it has been especially difficult with people suffering from mental health issues. Eyewitness News was joined by Dr. Stephanie Waitt. She’s a licensed professional counselor who has battled eating disorder issues herself.


Dr. Stephanie Waitt: Thank you for talking about this because it’s something that I am, well really passionate about. So I’m glad to hear us talking about this because I think the pandemic is affecting people. Right now, what’s happened is people have lost a lot of their support. We’re finding people needing to maybe go into a higher level of care. It’s harder to get into those programs just because of you know, COVID, like safety policies and social distancing. So they’ve lost support. We’re hearing that folks are, well, everyone is more anxious and more overwhelmed. And when you don’t have your support, and you’re anxious and overwhelmed, it feels really hard to be battling with an eating disorder because it’s something that I think a lot of people don’t talk about. And it’s hard to talk to support. So people struggle alone right now.

NOAH ALATZA: Right. I mean, with working from home, especially during this pandemic, you know, talk to me about how big of an impact maybe that’s had.

Dr. Stephanie Waitt: At home… I’m hearing this a lot from folks. It kind of feels like they’re trapped inside. And all they can think about is food. whatever that looks like for your eating disorder, the food is calling and there’s not a lot of distraction. There’s not a lot of tools or again people to help turn that off. So we’re stuck inside with thoughts of food all day.

NOAH ALATZA: And Doctor Wait, I’m sure that you know this, you know telehealth visits are at an all time high. Is this a good way in your mind for people struggling to get some help?

Dr. Stephanie Waitt: Absolutely. I’ve seen so many more people able to access care. There aren’t a lot of people who can treat eating disorders, who specialized in treating eating disorders. And so a lot of people don’t have access to care and as I was talking about treatment programs, right so a lot of people don’t have…their therapist isn’t as available. The person they can talk to isn’t as available. So they are able to access support through video and telehealth options. And I’ve seen so many more people who couldn’t get help before, I think are able to get help now.

NOAH ALATZA: And do you have any tips for parents to spot eating disorders in their teens? And how could they help?

Dr. Stephanie Waitt: Great question. Thank you for asking that. Parents, a lot of teens and young kids are isolating. And so how much of your… is your kid getting out and eating? Or are they hiding or sneaking food? How much are they exercising? You know, they can do those things alone in their room. So how much of some of these things are they trying to do behind our backs or doing in a way that isn’t…It’s not as obvious as just sitting down or not sitting down at the dinner table. I think we have to look at food behaviors in between meals and what our kid is saying about food and what our kid is saying about their body. if they’re wanting to diet and lose weight, that’s usually a pretty big red flag.

NOAH ALATZA: Well, so many components there. Dr. Waitt, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We appreciate really appreciate your time.
Dr. Stephanie Waitt: Yes. Thank you for having me.