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Most important facts about eating disorders in Midlife

When you think about eating disorders the stereotype of slim, young teens comes into mind for a lot of. However, conditions such as anorexia or bulimia are not just for children. as well as binge-eating disorder (BED) can affect individuals of all sizes and of any age, including those in midlife.

In reality the middle age period is an especially vulnerable time and especially for women. “We view puberty and menopause both as high-risk periods for disordered eating,” says Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, the founder of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders in Chapel Hill, and author of the book Midlife Eating Disorders. 

“Pretty much universally, treatment programs have reported an increase in the number of women at midlife presenting for treatment,” Bulik says.

Facts About Eating Disorders

Men are at risk of the same eating disorder-related behaviors as women are. It is estimated that the National Eating Disorders Association estimates that men make up 36 percent of those suffering from eating disorders that are binge-like 25 percent of those suffering from anorexia nervosa as well as 25 percent the people suffering from bulimia.

For older adults eating disorders can be a relapse, or a continuation of eating disorders that first appeared decades ago. The issue could be completely new. Whatever the scenario, these ailments are not just a threat to an individual’s health , but they can they can also cause distress, shame and a lack of privacy that can make their relationships more difficult.

There aren’t any comparisons side-by-side of the prevalence of eating disorders across different categories of. What we know, based on the findings of a study published in International Journal of Eating Disorders which estimates 13.5% of U.S. women ages 50 or more are currently suffering from signs of eating disorders. 

The study also shows that while the rates of anorexia tend to decrease at around the age of 26 years, cases of bulimia nervosa are not at their peak until 47. And the prevalence of binge eating disorders are not seen until after 70.

Related A Truthful Look at Anorexia Nervosa 5 Myths and Five Facts

Many older adults and , in some instances, their doctors are unaware the possibility that eating disorder can manifest in their twenties, leaving the disorder untreated and unreported. This is even though eating disorders have among the highest rates of mortality for any mental disease.

We wanted Bulik to clarify which adult are most at risk of experiencing an eating disorder around the age of midlife, and to offer suggestions to recognize a problem and the best way to seek assistance should it be required.

Everyday Health: People are prone to thinking of girls in their adolescence when you think about eating disorders. What triggers someone to get an eating disorder when they are in their fifties, forties or later?

Cynthia Bulik: Genetic influences are frequently at play in people suffering from eating disorders, however your environment can play an important role. Your genes don’t change over time, but your environmental triggers may. A variety of factors that take place during midlife can cause eating disorders.

Changes in the course of life, like divorce

Nest that is empty or troubled

Children with boomerangs, or children who come home after having lived in their own

The loss to parents, of a spouse or a loved one

Job loss

Unexpected decline in health

Women, too, have a direct impact menopausal changes on body shape and weight. The majority of designers don’t alter their designs for women whose body shapes change. Women are always trying to find a way to wear clothes that were made to fit their body twenty years ago.

There is also a growing societal expectation to not age. To fight off the signs of aging, people might begin practicing extreme behaviors like intense exercise or cosmetic surgery in an effort to maintain the appearance of youth. These practices could be the first step towards an eating disorder of a serious nature.

The presence of a daughter in adolescence could be a trigger as it could bring back memories of how women used to be.

EH: What percent of women who are middle-aged who have had issues with eating disorders in the past , and have relapsed and how many are first-time victims?

CB A third of women suffered from an eating disorder in their younger years and suffer a relapse at midlife. Around one-third of them have been sick in adolescence, or have been in the subthreshold, where they didn’t fully recover, and then got worse during their the middle of their lives. A little less than one-third suffer from a new-onset eating disorder.

EH: Which eating disorders are most common during the middle of life?

CB: According to the official, BED is one of the more common. It’s a bit complicated since many suffering from BED do not even know that they suffer from a diagnosable, treatment-able illness. They experience binge eating episodes, and also the anxiety and shame that accompany these episodes, but don’t realize that they’re not alone and that effective treatment options do exist.

EH: How do effects of eating disorders on health differ for younger and older individuals?

CB On the surface the signs of eating disorders that are common in middle age appear the same as those of eating disorders that are onset in the younger years, but there are some significant distinctions. Any time you experience an eating disorder, they can affect all bodily systems. This can be dangerous in the early years and even more so as you age and more susceptible to problems that may arise from eating disorders. 

Gastrointestinal heart, cardiovascular, bone as well as dental health all are more susceptible to a damage in a body that is maturing. For example, women who experienced an eating disorder from a young age can be suffering from osteoporosis severe or loss of bone.

EH: How can eating disorders affect someone’s relationship with their partner or spouse?

CB The eating disorder can be extremely damaging to relationships. A lot of partners report that it’s like there’s three persons in the relationship: the one suffering from the disorder, the person and the person with an eating disorder. A lot of people are very concerned about their partner, but aren’t sure how to help them and fear that whatever they do could increase the severity of the issue. 

The deceit and secrecy that can accompany eating disorders can cause partners to wonder if they are able to trust their loved ones who suffers from an eating disorder. One example is that one could consider, if they’re lying about their diet, what else could they be lying about? consume and what else do they lie to me?

EH: How can treatments differ for teens and older adults? what treatment is most efficient in older individuals?

CB: Unfortunately this is a problem that we don’t have a definitive answer. As of now the treatment literature isn’t able to distinguish teens and those who are in their midlife years however, it does recommend suggesting treatment that is family-based for those suffering from anorexia nervosa.

In UNC at Chapel Hill, we have created a treatment known as UNITE which is a reference to Unifying Couples for the treatment of eating Disorders. The treatment is based on a cognitive-behavioral couple therapy method (meaning it is focused on changing harmful attitudes and behaviours) specific to eating disorders, which brings partners together on their journey to recovery. 

People are drawn to it as it offers them a plan of how to assist those suffering from eating disorders gain from having an accountability partner and to encourage and help them when their enthusiasm for recovery wane.

For those who aren’t engaged in relationships, private psychotherapy remains the method of choice.

EH: If someone is reading this and see these signals within themselves, what can they do?

CB: It’s crucial to realize that these signs will not disappear. The best option is to see your primary doctor for assistance. It is essential to have an exhaustive mental and medical health examination, since at the age of midlife, it’s more crucial to identify other issues that may be disguised as eating disorder.

The most common problem However, certain primary care physicians tell you things such as, “Oh, you’re too old for that.” Therefore, you’ll need an expert doctor who is and patient and can guide you into the right kind of care.

If you are in close proximity to a clinic that specializes in eating disorders for eating disorders, like at a university is a great location to seek treatment. Be sure to inquire whether the clinic provides treatment that is based on research-based evidence for eating disorders.

For those who aren’t near a campus of a university online assistance is becoming more readily available.

Ru is an entertainment nerd who likes to spill the beans about what's happening in the entertainment industry. She comes up with well-researched articles so that you can "Netflix and Chill." Come join her as she has a lot to tell her readers.


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