How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the mental health of patients with bulimia nervosa?

Bottom Line:

Approximately half of the patients in the study reported a deterioration of the symptoms of their eating disorder since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Schlegl, S. et al. Bulimia nervosa in times of the COVID-19 pandemic— Results from an online survey of former inpatients. Eur Eat Disorders Res (2020).

Date Published:

7 August 2020


Individuals with mental disorders, and in particular eating disorders, have a tendency to use more dysfunctional coping mechanisms than those without mental illness. An international online survey showed that physical activity levels decreased, and poorer eating habits increased among the general population while in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study was to report on the progression of symptoms in patients with eating disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically bulimia nervosa, a mental illness where patients cycle through binge eating and purging behaviours. The study was comprised of 55 patients who were previously treated in hospital for their eating disorder. Approximately half the patients stated that the symptoms of their eating disorder have worsened since the start of the pandemic, and 60% of them reported a decrease in their quality of life. Also, more than half of the patients were unable to continue their face-to-face therapy, however only 20% were receiving alternative methods of therapy, such as by phone or video-conference. While the current pandemic has potentially interfered with the treatment and recovery of patients with eating disorders, the activities that were stated as most helpful included virtual social contact and mild physical activity.

Summary by: Caroline Gregory