LONDON, ONT. -- It’s been a long road for 26-year-old Juliana Winik, who’s been struggling with a severe eating disorder since she was 14.

"It is a struggle and that depression with the thoughts of when will this ever change? Depression for me leads to heavier restriction and not wanting to eat and thinking what’s the point almost?" says Winik who adds, what hasn’t helped in her journey is the added stress and anxiety that has come with the pandemic.

"It’s very difficult to get the support that’s needed and programs have been shut down for awhile, and that really clogged up the wait list. The wait list for treatment is astronomical these days."

Winik's experience falls in line with a new research paper released by Western University that examines the impact the pandemic is having on those living with an eating disorder.

"The effects on eating disorders, on people who are living through this pandemic are hidden inside the home," says Jaclyn Siegel, a PhD candidate in social psychology at Western University.

"Eating disorders are already a stigmatized condition and people don’t take them seriously and there isn’t a lot of funding for them."

Siegel, who worked with an international team of researchers and clinicians, says limited access to treatments and doctors as well as restrictions to services such as restaurants and gyms can all lead to additional risks.

Juliana Winik
Julianna Winik has been struggling with an eating disorder for years

"Stressful life events and anxiety are also predictive of eating disorder onset and relapse. We know people are experiencing stress and anxiety about the pandemic for a variety of reasons." 

Winik agrees, the constant unknown and shut downs during this pandemic has taken a toll. 

"With everything shut down you’re not getting jobs you’re not in school and you feel this purposelessness, which the eating disorder can unfortunately fill as a void."

The hopes are the paper will bring more awareness to this issue, to help push for additional services and supports for those living with an eating disorder.