Eating Disorders: No Longer Just for the Young

I recently had the honor to be included as an expert panel member on Huffington Post’s HP Live, a web-based show. The topic was elder anorexia, which is on the rise throughout our country.

In the past, it was thought that eating disorders rarely occurred after the age of 35; experts now know anorexia occurs across the lifespan. In fact, behavioral health professionals report that in the past decade, they are treating an increasing number of women in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are starving themselves or bingeing and purging. Additionally, these women are abusing laxatives, exercising to dangerous extremes and exhibiting self-harming behaviors.

Women seeking treatment for an eating disorder typically fall into one of three categories: those who have secretly struggled with an eating disorder for many years yet did not receive help; those who were treated for an eating disorder in younger years; and those who developed an eating disorder as an adult (rare).

Unexpected transitions, especially in relationships, are one of the major triggers for the onset, re-appearance or escalation of a midlife eating disorder. These catalysts can include:

  • Empty nest
  • Parent’s illness or death
  • Abnormal reaction to the normal process of aging
  • Divorce / separation / remarriage
  • Traumatic illness such as cancer
  • Loss of job
  • Death of a child

Regardless of the triggering influence, women of any age can be set free from the grip of an eating disorder.  Effective eating disorders treatment is available and life-long recovery is possible.