Treatment of eating disorders in adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic: a case series

Serur Yaffa, Enoch Levy Adi, Pessach Itai, Joffe Milstein Marit, Gothelf Doron, Stein Daniel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Abstract: Background: Eating disorders (EDs) are among the most difficult psychiatric disorders to treat in normal conditions. They are likely even more difficult to manage in at-risk conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently there is limited evidence about the particular needs and recommended treatment of adolescents with EDs during the COVID-19 outbreak, in particular regarding the use of telemedicine and the involvement of the family in long distance-treatment. Aims: We sought to discuss the advantages and problems associated with the use of multi-professional long-distance telemedicine treatment in the management of adolescents with EDs and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak. Methods: We gathered data about the treatment of adolescents with EDs in our pediatric ED-treatment center in Israel during the COVID-19 outbreak in the first 10 months of 2020, and compared it to the respective period in the past five years (2015–2019). Second, we described the management of four young females with anorexia nervosa (AN), treated in the ambulatory, daycare and inpatient facilities of our center during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings: Slightly less patients were treated in our center during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the respective period in the past five years. These patients received at that time considerably more treatment sessions from all treatment providers (psychiatrists, clinical nutritionists and psychotherapists). This was related, in part, to the extensive use of telemedicine during that period (more than as third of all sessions were carried out with telemedicine in comparison to no use of long-distance treatment in the previous years). The condition of the four adolescents with AN was compromised at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine. The use of multi-disciplinary long-distance telemedicine treatment resulted in an improvement in the condition in three of the four adolescents, living in well-organized families, with the motivation and ability to adjust to the new conditions, but not in one adolescent whose family experienced more problems. These families might require the use of face-to-face interventions even during pandemic conditions. Conclusion: The choice of the mode of treatment for adolescents with EDs during pandemic times (telemedicine vs. face-to-face) should consider the functioning of the family.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Eating disorders
  • Pandemic
  • Telemedicine

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