Eating Disorders Among Older Women Is On The Rise
The first stage of treatment at the Victorian house is a closely
monitored house of support and treatment. The home houses seven women in recovery
at a time. When I was working there as Support Staff the demographic we usually
had was four girls in their 20’s and two women in their late 40’s to early 60’s.
Some people are surprised that women past their 20’s suffer from eating
disorders. The women I worked with at this stage were some of our most tragic
cases. Older women had so much more to lose. Many were on the brink of divorce,
losing their jobs and separated from their children.
So how big of an epidemic is this?
Well, a 2006 study
published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that among a
randomly selected nonclinical sample of 1,000 women, aged 60–70 years, more
than 80 percent controlled their weight and more than 60 percent stated body
dissatisfaction. Eighteen women met criteria for eating disorders and 21
reported single symptoms of an eating disorder.
Dr. Emmett Bishop, MD, FAED, CEDS, founding partner and
medical director of adult services at Eating Recovery Center, says there are
many myths among older women with eating disorders, “The biggest myth is that this group does
not have eating disorders. Although this group has flown under the radar, we
are seeing quite a few women in treatment in their 40s, 50s and 60s. We even
recently treated an 80-year-old woman.”
Does your loved one have an eating disorder?
Bishop says, “Signs and symptoms of an eating disorder in
older women are very similar to what you would see in the younger group: weight
loss, avoiding situations where food will be available, excessive exercise,
obsessions with calories and weight, using the bathroom directly after a meal
and becoming more secretive or withdrawn. The biggest problem I have seen with
the older group is people “blowing off” symptoms because the
individual displaying them has behaved that way for a long time. Oftentimes,
friends and family will say “that’s just they way she is” until they
see their loved one begin to develop medical complications.”
If you feel your loved one may have an eating disorder we
encourage you to seek treatment as soon as possible. Anorexia and Bulimia are
the most deadly of ALL mental illnesses. Please reach out, we would be happy to
discuss treatment options with you: 888.268.9182