Coronavirus Chronicles — Assailed From All Sides

The virus and obesity share many meeting places, and mental health is a major collaboration hub for them. The direct and indirect effects of living (or dying) with COVID-19 are horrible for emotional stability. Psychological turmoil is bad for people with eating disorders, including the ones that cause obesity. Obesity is good for the virus, which, for its own mysterious reasons, prefers victims with extra fat stores.

Besides obesity, the virus has a hankering for other morbidities and pre-existing conditions. Like an ambitious mobster, it will go into business with anyone who offers enough profit. Poor mental and emotional health leads to feelings of helplessness, alienation, giving up, worthlessness, self-destructiveness, isolation, loss of hope, etc., and POW! the virus scores again, because those are the exact states of mind and spirit that entice people into dangerous neighborhoods like “vaccine hesitation” and mask refusal.

Some humans are deluded enough to expect the virus to give us credit for loving our families and sustaining other human relationships. Would COVID-19 be mean enough to punish us for wanting to be with other good people? Yes. The virus doesn’t care about anything except its own agenda. It wants us to carry it to our parents and grandparents and children and best friends. It preempts our finest qualities, our love and loyalty and longing to meet with others in person, and turns them into weapons against us. And some of us play right into its hands.

The hysterical, the cavalier, and other attitudes

There is more to isolation than the physical dimension. It is common to feel rejected and judged by others who seem either way too uptight in their insistence on pandemic precautions, or pathologically unconcerned. The previous Childhood Obesity News post mentions journalist Kristen Rogers, who says,

Excessive handwashing and fears of contamination can be hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder — now and in the future, some people with OCD may feel comforted by the public’s acceptance of safety behaviors, but also struggle to not become increasingly obsessive.

Issues arise when someone is forced to live with people who are not on the same page about household habits. One example: For someone with an eating disorder, it might be a very good idea to set strict limits on the amount of food allowed in the home at any time. But now, a person who has spent years learning discipline loses the hard-won autonomy. Other household members don’t want to observe those limitations. With shortages, you don’t know when flour will be available again, so better stock up until the pantry is full.

When every package of the favorite snack might be the last, behavior slips the leash. Anxiety about future availability makes people want to binge. Or purge. Or both. The very idea of terminal food shortages is grotesque, and yet all too possible. As either a paranoid fantasy or a stone-cold reality, the notion of running out of food is a mind-bender.

But wait, there is more. People who are seriously thrown off their mental and emotional balance might not rank a vaccination appointment as their first priority. So the virus wins again. And obesity or some other malady scores another point, too.

A perfect storm for all the players

Take a terrifying pandemic, and add in a bunch of people with emotional and psychological problems, and you’ve got present-day reality. Rogers, who is strong on both identifying main issues and generating cogent quotations, predicts:

[W]hat will likely still remain is the indelible impact of the pandemic weighing on the collective psyche… [T]he mental darkness of the crisis will be harder to overcome.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Mental health is one of the biggest pandemic issues we’ll face in 2021,”,, 01/04/21
Image by NIH Image Gallery/Public Domain

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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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