Along with the topic of eating disorders comes a discussion on youth, with approximately 3% of U.S. adolescents affected, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Thirty-million Americans are struggling with an eating disorder, and there is a population that hasn’t been discussed much: older women. Healthline states that women aged 50 and older are struggling with distorted body image, and feeling out of control with the way life is going can lead many to attempt to gain that control through food and body issues.

Along with getting older comes stressful events that can also trigger an eating disorder, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, traumatic illness, and “empty nest syndrome”, which involves the feelings of emptiness and despair after a parent’s children have all left the home. An online survey published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found symptoms of an eating disorder in 13% of women aged 50 and older, with over 70% reporting they were trying to lose weight. Sixty-two percent of the women surveyed felt their weight or shape had a negative impact on their life.

For women experiencing midlife crisis, anger, agitation, negative self-talk and feeling jaded about the future can lead many to self-coping skills, some which aren’t that healthy. Fears associated with aging such as living a life well-spent, inability to do certain things due to health complications, and wanting to look younger and more “desirable” can cause an eating disorder to occur. Some women have had an eating disorder their entire lives, others have never been diagnosed, and yet others develop one as they are during adulthood. If you believe that you or a person you love has an eating disorder, recognize the signs:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dressing in layers to hide weight
  • Preoccupation with food, calories, dieting, and more
  • Refusing to eat certain foods progressing to whole categories of foods
  • Making frequent comments of being “fat” or overweight, even if weight loss has occurred
  • Cooking meals for others without eating
  • Expressing a need to “burn off” calories eaten
  • Concern with eating in public

These are just a few symptoms to look out for, but the full list of symptoms can be accessed via the National Eating Disorders website. Treatment is available, and typically consists of psychotherapy which may include cognitive behavioral therapy – a method used to help individuals change old, negative thought patterns into newer, more productive ones. Nutrition assessment will also be involved, and medication may be prescribed. Eating disorders are a serious condition that requires support, love, and treatment – seek help today.

New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you or your loved one is ready to begin treatment for an eating disorder, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.


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