Coronavirus Chronicles — Burnout and Disorder

Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News looked at an article from The Guardian that referenced a study whose logical process and conclusions have been criticized. Research from the University of Oxford misstated that about 20% of COVID-19 survivors develop a new psychiatric illness.

For anyone interested, Jeremy Arnold explains in detail how those researchers boggled up their numbers. Without becoming unnecessarily involved in that, we will quote Arnold as saying,

[…] getting COVID is worse for one’s mental health than not getting COVID.

That is indisputable and does not undermine the point that relates to obesity, which is that any onset of mental disturbance, whether first-time or episodic, is likely to make the victim more vulnerable to a variety of harmful consequences, including eating disorders.

This is especially true when the illness coincides with societal circumstances that either prevent people from getting enough nutritious food, or that encourage the stockpiling and hoarding of food.

The Emily Program is a University of Minnesota Medical School Affiliate whose website warns of the “scarcity mindset that prompts even those without eating disorders to stock up on the food they can access,” and also says,

[N]o two people have the same eating disorder, but all do have certain things in common… Your eating disorder will always try to find reasons to use disordered behaviors.

The combination of all these hazardous and disorienting factors can have significant results, including the development of habits and maladaptive behaviors that can be passed along to children.

Everything makes everything worse

In people who previously recovered from self-destructive behaviors like binge-eating, the stressors can promote a recurrence, and people can also develop new mental/emotional disorders. In addition, this can happen not only to actual COVID-19 patients, but to people who live in fear of catching the disease because they must keep working, or who can’t help being exposed to people who might be actively shedding the virus. Many people currently exist in a state of fear just as real and palpable as the terror experienced by those who live under the constant threat of being blown up by missiles.

Everyone has had enough

From press interviews, online forums, and social media threads, we learn that medical personnel and support staff are at the end of their mental and emotional resources. As hospitals reach capacity, workers who up until now have been compassionate and caring amaze even themselves by suggesting that any mask-refuser who contracts the virus should be denied treatment.

From respiratory therapists to hospital custodians, some have not seen their own children for weeks or months, and inwardly boil with anger at the uncaring, heedless strangers who caught the virus for selfish, unjustifiable reasons. Doctors are flabbergasted when patients, with their last dying breaths, insist that COVID-19 is a hoax. Nurses who spend seemingly endless shifts bundled up in protective layers are afraid to unmask long enough to eat a hasty lunch. How will this visceral fear affect a person’s future relationship with food and eating?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Psychiatric Illness Prevalence in COVID Survivors and COVID Experts,”, 11/11/20
Source: “Advice for those struggling with an eating disorder during COVID-19,”, 03/26/20
Image by John Lambert Pearson/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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