The Dangerous Truth About Eating Disorders

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The Dangerous Truth About Eating Disorders

A surprising number of women over the age of 50 suffer from eating disorders. Learn why that is and the dangers associated with it.

Eating disorders are commonly found in young teenagers; however, the International Journal of Eating Disorders has shown that a whopping 13% of women 50 and older have an eating disorder, which echoes similar rates seen in adolescents. According to Cynthia Bulik, PhD, director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, the reason for these similarities is that women who reach the age of menopause also have the same hormonal swings that are seen in adolescents.

Although the exact cause of eating disorders remains uncertain, experts believe that genes controlling our hormones as well as environmental factors may contribute to this phenomenon. Common eating disorders include bulimia nervosa, where women binge eat and then purge those calories, and anorexia nervosa, where women starve themselves.

Eating disorders are thought to be associated with vanity and the need to be thin. On the contrary, eating disorders have a psychiatric component and are closely linked to depression and anxiety, which can also affect the quality of life. Apart from isolating oneself from family and friends, eating disorders have serious medical impacts, including death.

About 20% of people suffering from anorexia die every year, making anorexia the deadliest of psychiatric disorders. Problems caused by starvation and binge eating include damage to the heart, gastrointestinal systems, and hormone imbalances that can be a factor leading to osteoporosis. These conditions are more severe as women age and their bodies become more fragile.

With the addition of stressors accompanied with this older age group, and the constant push for needing to appear younger in the media, more and more women are turning to numerous weight loss methods.  American society’s mentality that “40 is the new 20,” has tipped some women into developing eating disorders.

An increased spread of awareness of eating disorders among older women has led to more treatment options available. From live-in facilities to therapy, women are able to seek treatment and live a healthy lifestyle.


Written by Katherine Chua


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