Photo credit: Ombudsman For Children

10-year-old developed eating disorder due to Covid anxiety

A 10-year-old girl in Ireland developed a severe anxiety-related eating disorder and “intense fear of infection” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the Children’s Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) outlined in its annual report how a girl named Chloe experienced an “acute mental health crisis which appeared to have been triggered by the pandemic.”

“She initially experienced severe anxiety, an obsession with hygiene and an intense fear of infection,” the report reads.

“Chloe’s parents told us they had no concerns about Chloe’s mental health before that.”

Though the girl was put on a course of anti-anxiety medication by the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), these medications “seemed to make her worse.”

“Unfortunately Chloe’s mental health deteriorated rapidly,” the report says.

“She completely withdrew from family life, and became aggressive when her parents tried to encourage her to do anything. She stopped eating, was rapidly losing weight, would not attend to her self-care and became incontinent.”

Ultimately, the girl’s family reached out to the Ombudsman’s office in September of 2020, and paediatricians were ultimately forced to sedate and tube-feed her through the nose to prevent her from starving.

That same month, however, she had a “serious medical reaction” to the sedative medication, which resulted in her being rushed to ICU.

Ultimately, after being given a bed in an inpatient CAMHS approved centre, Chloe made a recovery and was released around Christmas time.

However, such Covid anxiety does not seem to be an isolated case.

As part of a survey conducted by the OCO, primary and secondary school children around Ireland were asked to share their experiences of the Covid period.

Out of the 1,389 children’s responses from 23 schools, 74% said they had experienced feelings of loneliness, with 76% felt levels of worry and 70% of anger. When it came to education, 83% of children said they felt the pandemic had a negative impact on their learning, and 14% said they got no help whatsoever with their online studies.

According to the Ombudsman’s office, the lockdown year of 2021 saw the highest number of complaints about child safeguarding ever recorded.

“In 2021 we received 2,126 complaints, 908 of which related to Covid,” the report said.

“These were not standard complaints considering the circumstances of the pandemic.”

2022 saw a total of 1,812 complaints – the highest normal, non-lockdown year in terms of complaints.

The Covid-19 lockdown appears to have had a profound impact on people’s mental health, with the Chief Medical Officer this year claiming that many old people are still isolating from Covid-19 a year after the majority of restrictions ended, leading to feelings of “loneliness” and “isolation.”


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