Because most people associate eating disorders with adolescent girls, it may surprise them to learn that there are quite a few middle-aged people suffering from them as well. Middle-aged women not only suffer from anorexia nervosa but they are dying from this debilitating obsession with calorie restriction as well.
Anorexia is related to issues of control. When a young, developing girl feels that life is moving too quickly, feels tremendous pressure to become successful or to be thin (or even just to grow up), she may restrict her calories in order to feel in control. It's the one thing she can manage and make an impact upon -- her physical appearance and condition.
This is almost like a healthy choice gone haywire -- the impetus to change yourself for the better and to improve upon your physical well-being and self-image could run you to the ground.
In middle-aged women, the impulse is similar. Many middle-aged women go on healthy diet and exercise regimens in hopes of regaining their youthful vitality and health, or to maintain their ideal weight. They feel societal pressure, now more than ever before, to age gracefully or -- truth be told -- to appear as if they are not aging at all.
Also, the pressures and changes of middle-age can cause women to feel that their lives are spiraling out of control, which can spur episodes or bouts with anorexia.
Deaths in the family, taking care of children, sometimes with illnesses or other issues, children growing and leaving home, divorce, career issues and money problems ... these can all lead to a sense of one's life being out of control.
With middle-aged women often feeling caught in the middle between children and careers, children and significant others and/or children and aging parents, there is little or no breathing room, no time to relax, unwind or to be beholden to oneself.
This can create a lack of self-care that can cause a woman to overdo it and cycle into negative patterns of calorie restriction and eating badly in hopes of, at least, liking what she sees in the mirror.