Eating Disorders Later In Life: Never Too Late For Treatment

Eating disorders are not just an adolescent and young adult issue. An increasing number of people in their thirties, forties, and fifties, predominantly women, are seeking treatment for disordered eating.

However, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and shame prevent many adults from asking for help. The idea that they should know better, or that they are beyond help, keeps many individuals suffering in silence.

You Are Not The Only One

Some mature adults have symptoms of anorexia or bulimia, but many more exhibit a mix of symptoms that fall under the EDNOS heading, or eating disorders not otherwise specified.

These atypical eating disorders may include symptoms such as an intense fear of being fat, being preoccupied with weight, food, and body image, extreme weight loss, compulsively exercising, isolation, avoidance of social activities, and disappearing into the bathroom after meals.

An eating disorder in adulthood may be the re-emergence of disordered eating patterns from adolescence. Distressing events and life’s pressures can trigger the symptoms of a previous problem.

Other people first experience eating disorder symptoms as a mature adult, frequently during one of life’s bumpy transitions. Stress owed to parenthood, marriage, divorce, children leaving home, work pressures, or aging parents can create chaos and feel overwhelming. Strictly managing food consumption is a way to regain a sense of control and stability.

The physical changes people encounter as they age can also trigger disordered eating. Both childbirth and menopause create body changes that a woman may have difficulty adjusting to, especially weight gain.

Treatment Hurdles and Hope

Adults with eating disorders are less likely than young people to be confronted by others about their problem. For instance, if a high school student loses a significant amount of weight, a parent, teacher, or friend is likely ask them about it. However, adult sufferers do not always look skinny or emaciated, and typically adults who lose weight are praised and envied by their doctors, family, and friends.

Also, many adults with eating disorders remain functional at home and at work. They have developed enough maturity and life skills to carry-on despite their disordered eating. They seem to be doing fine when actually in distress. However, there is non-judgmental, compassionate help available.

Anyone struggling with an eating disorder can get symptom relief with treatment. Adults often progress quickly because they have maturity and developed strengths to rely on. A partial to full recovery is probable. This includes adults who have hidden their symptoms for 25 years or more. It is never too late to ask for help.

Source: Spry Living
Photo credit: (flickr)

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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