Emotional Eating and the Coronavirus

“Since we’ve been in quarantine,” announces Susan, a binge eating client, “I can’t stop overeating. Now that I’m in lockdown, I wish I had lockjaw!”

Danny laughingly echoes the same feeling: “Now that I can’t go to work, I’m involved instead in many diverse activities at home throughout the day — there’s snacking, grazing, munching, nibbling, noshing, chowing down, and sometimes even eating meals!”

Susan and Danny have it right — emotional eating struggles during this time of COVID-19 are alive and well.

In truth, worry, anxiety, fear, grief, boredom, anger and depression are always major triggers for emotional eaters. But when you add a pandemic to these triggers, you have a perfect storm for people struggling with food, eating, and worries about weight gain. And even those “normal” people who don’t have an eating disorder are struggling as well.

Of course, the fear of getting COVID-19 and the worry about loved ones getting sick is paramount in people’s minds. But clients have also expressed that not knowing when the quarantine is going to end is one of the worst parts of this experience. Here are what some clients have discussed:

  • Judy: “If I knew when my life would be back to normal, then I could tolerate the next month with more peace of mind. My anxiety would be more manageable and probably my food, too. I’d know this lockdown would have a beginning, middle, and an end, rather than this intolerable ongoing experience.”
  • Leslie: “For me the biggest stress is not knowing how to explain to my kids why they can’t see their friends, why we can’t go out to play, and trying to fill up the day with kid-focused activities. It’s driving me crazy — overeating is like my sanctuary, my oasis.”
  • Marsha: “Food has always been
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Collaborative care: Treating mental illnesses in primary care – Harvard Health Blog

Like most people, you probably do not enjoy going to the doctor only to be referred to a specialist in a different practice. Unfortunately, fragmented care is often the reality among people suffering from common mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Wouldn’t it be nice to have both your behavioral and physical health needs addressed at the same time and in the same place?

Comprehensive physical and behavioral health care

In medicine, illnesses of the brain are often treated in specialized settings, separate from the rest of medical care. However, we know that there is a strong link between mental illnesses and numerous medical conditions including heart diseases, lung diseases, immune function, and pain. Mental illnesses can cause or exacerbate physical illnesses, but the reverse is true as well: physical illnesses can result in psychological distress or illness through common pathways such as inflammation. Treating mental illnesses in the primary care setting improves access to mental health care and reduces stigma. Although the burden of mental illnesses in primary care settings is high, many primary care physicians do not feel comfortable managing these conditions alone.

What is collaborative care?

Collaborative care is a team-based model of integrated psychiatric and primary care that can treat mental illnesses in the primary care setting. In our practice, a multidisciplinary “teamlet” of a behavioral health coach, a social worker, and a psychiatrist work together in a coordinated fashion to provide treatment to the patient, and to provide recommendations for the patient’s primary care physician. Treatment is truly patient-centered, and the clinicians often use motivational interviewing to help a patient identify and achieve their behavioral health goals. This model of care is time-limited, generally six sessions every other week for 12 weeks, followed by three monthly maintenance sessions.

Collaborative care helps you meet your

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