With wait lists already devastatingly long, eating disorder support services are concerned the lockdown will make it harder for those who are already struggling.
Eating Disorder Association (EDANZ) chairperson Nicki Wilson told the Herald the ability for people to access care is worsening.
Statistics provided to the association under the Official Information Act show the number of children aged 0-19 that have accessed eating disorder services over the past six years has increased by more than 150 from 679 in 2015 to 845 in 2020.
"EDANZ are holding people while they're waiting to get into treatment, we're holding people who can't access treatment because they're deemed not sick enough, or because the GP doesn't have the knowledge to diagnose them."
Five years ago Wilson said very few people would wait more than five weeks for treatment, now she said people can be waiting nine months to be seen.
"Even those who are discharged from hospital have months-long waits to get into community treatment, even after hospitalisation."
She said this was far too long as they were life threatening illness for treatable health issues, because they are simply unable to access treatment.
"For people already struggling it [lockdown] just makes it even harder.
"I really stress that people should reach out to their GP, they must seek medical attention. And, you know, if, they don't succeed at first, they can try again."
Wilson said recovery is possible and that EDANZ is there for those who need support.
The Government announced this year it was finally planning "a way forward" for eating disorder services - but advocates said then if a strategy is not finalised and funded urgently people would die waiting for help.
New Zealand Eating Disorders Clinic co-director Kellie Lavender told the Herald lockdown can generate issues for anyone with mental health concerns, but particularly younger people.
"One of the major things is being more isolated from peer groups, and normal structure and routine. And we kind of forget that for young people in particular that connection to our peer group is particularly important."
For someone with an eating disorder Lavender said falling out of pattern with food can be quite dangerous.
"It allows more negative thinking to creep in to the forefront of people's minds, where perhaps you know those thoughts around food and eating and exercise just start to ruminate more because there's more time for it to happen."
She said this can lead to an escalation of behaviours like restriction, bingeing, or excessive exercise.
After the first lockdown last year, Lavender said referrals increased 150 per cent and that it hadn't slowed down.
"May, and then [we had a] 100 per cent increase, then June increased again, July increased again and it didn't really peter off until leading into August and then there was another lockdown and it picked up again."
She's concerned they will see the same thing happen after this lockdown.
"People were having to wait six months, which is absolutely unheard of in terms of eating disorder treatment because it is so dangerous. And we were just feeling like we were catching up."
At the moment, she said they have more than 100 people on their waiting list.
"So I am worried, about having to make families and young people wait, and not just young people as we know people of all ages get eating disorders."
Her advice to those who may be struggling includes trying to keep routine in your day, try maintain a normal working day or school day as much as possible.
"In particular make time to connect with either family or friends on a regular basis."
Adding other activities like a new hobby or chore to build into your day that engages your mind in a productive way can also help.
"Get out into some fresh air and [do] something to get out of the house. But be cautious of exercise becoming obsessive or compulsive, do it as a means of wellbeing."
Do you need help?
Get in touch with Eating Disorders Association of New Zealand if you need help finding a private provider in your area by phoning Ph 0800 2 EDANZ or emailing email@example.com
If you need urgent help, reach out to your GP or local mental health provider.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)