The negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown have driven people to develop eating disorders: new communication technologies paved the way to online psychological support.
THE STUDY: LINK
Anxiety and depression: two of the main symptoms related to lockdown and home confinement. The pandemic has had a strongly negative impact on the mental health of the population, especially those suffering from eating disorders.
A survey found that 40% of individuals reported a worsening of symptoms after a couple of weeks into the lockdown, due in part to the interruption of the day hospital treatments they needed, and about 60% manifested anxiety symptoms as co-morbidity.
In a recent CoEHAR study, “Evaluation of the Effects of Telepsychotherapy in the Treatment and Prevention of Eating Disorders in Adolescents”, published in the prestigious International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the researchers analyzed the positive correlation between e-health services and the improvement in the reduction in primary and secondary symptoms related to the eating disorder.
Telemedicine is a health service performed not in presence through the use of information and communication technologies for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases.
Only 4 of the 176 studies analysed related to e-health services were included in the review.
The low number of studies analyzed shows how crucial it is to carry on in investigating the potential offered by new technologies in the treatment of psychological disorders.
The research of Heinicke et al. seems to be the most complete and most significant in terms of effective clinical results.
The qualitative assessment reported 65% of participants preferred to participate in an online session; 15% would move to a face-to-face program; 20% were unsure or considered either choice enjoyable. In addition, 88% reported that the program contributed moderately or markedly to positively improving their eating patterns, and only two people thought it had been useless.
The studies proved that therapeutic interventions could produce significantly positive results in the medium- and long-term period.
“Telepsychotherapy can help those suffering from eating disorders” explains first author Marilena Maglia. “Eating disorder affects a very young age group, accustomed to the use of technology in all its forms: these types of intervention can therefore help in having an additional channel of communication with these subjects”.
Although telemedicine therapies still have to be defined and extended to other patients suffering from anorexia, both patients and families express general satisfaction with these treatments.
The possibility of including treatment programs based on e-health work guarantees continuity of care and continuous monitoring by clinicians. It also allows a considerable decrease in the demand for treatments in outpatient services in the area.
However, considering the relatively young age of the subjects that benefit the most from the face-to-face session, there is a need for additional studies of these new forms of assistance.