In a culture obsessed with youth, we typically think of eating disorders a young person’s issue. However, eating disorders are affecting more middle age and older individuals. Eating disorders in the older population tend to receive less media attention; however, they slightly affect more women than breast cancer.
- 12% of women have breast cancer
- 13% of women older than 50 have eating disorder symptoms
- 8% report purging to lose weight
- 60% admit that weight and shape concerns negatively affect their lives
One study showed that over 4% of women age 60 and older met the criteria for clinical eating disorders and another 4% percent met the criteria for subclinical eating.
“Our clinical partners often call us with a referral for a client that is in her 50s or 60s,” states Michelle Kalz, National Director of Clinical Partnerships. “They want to know if we have anyone in the milieu around the same age. Often, the answer is yes – but either way we believe that treatment populations are a sampling of real life diversity. Growth and recovery start here, often in the most surprising places.”
What is the cause?
Studies show that many older women who suffer from a later in life eating disorder have been struggling with symptoms since a much younger age. With age comes additional stressors that place women at more risk for developing an eating disorder, such as relationships, parenting, careers, aging body, gray hair, and decreased sexual energy. Other contributing factors may include:
- Relapsed from an adolescent eating disorder
- Loss of status in a youth-oriented world
- Death of a loved one such as parents or spouse
- Traumatic illness
- Empty nest
Additional triggers can include loss of enthusiasm for life, attempts to get attention from others, economic hardship, or change in living conditions such as a move to a nursing home.
What are the signs of an eating disorder?
Detecting an eating disorder in older women can be harder to identify, but the following can be signs of disordered eating:
- A significant change in weight (up or down) over a relatively short period
- Changes in behavior such as disappearing after a meal or using the restroom after eating something
- Boxes of laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics
- A desire to eat in the bedroom alone rather than eating with family or spouse
- Missing food
- Sensitivity to cold
- Excessive hair loss, dental damage, or heart or gastrointestinal problems
Older women suffering from an eating disorder often do not have significant weight loss, in fact, their weight may be average or above. Also, this population tends to adjust to health discomforts and function at a high level in their personal lives and careers, meaning, they will often suffer in silence.
How do I get help?
Older individuals may have a more difficult time seeking help than someone who is younger. With the pressures of home, financial, family and career they often find it harder to make treatment a priority in their lives. Eating disorders pose a threat to physical and mental health at any age, and there are treatment options available.
“One of our missions and passions at Magnolia Creek is to provide awareness and accurate education for eating disorders. Our treatment team realizes that eating disorders do not discriminate with age. We are dedicated to treating all ages and individuals with compassion and dignity while utilizing the most currents and effective treatment,” shares Clinical Director, Dr. Danielle Cornia.
- Binge Eating Disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Our therapeutic environment is designed to support each client as they explore the underlying issues behind their eating disorder. We work with our client and their family to develop a customized treatment plan that identifies treatment goals. Clients benefit from the regular one-on-one sessions with primary and family therapists, dietitians, and medical staff in combination with a variety of group and experiential therapies. Our clients have access to around-the-clock support from our professional team which is invaluable as women develop a healthier, more intuitive, and more sustainable relationship with food.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and needs help, Magnolia Creek can help. Our eating disorder treatment facility provides the highest level of care through our residential and partial hospitalization programs. For more information, call our admissions team at 866-318-2329 or complete our contact form. Magnolia Creek is here to help you in regaining control of your life.