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Adult Anorexia: New Programs and New Solutions

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Many centers for eating disorders that once placed their emphasis on the adolescent female patient are now developing programs specifically for adult women. The University of California has several in-patient programs for adults.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, “Renfrew [Center] created separate therapy sessions for women over 35 after they went from constituting 10 percent of in-patients in 2001 to 17 percent two years later.”

The reason for the change makes sense to any adult woman as the Tribune states, “Therapists recognized that in mixed-age groups, the older women remained silent, tried to 'mother' the younger women or said midlife issues were not being addressed.”

And there are innovative programs being worked on as I write. Amy Novotney, of Monitor, a publication of the American Psychological Association, reports on just a few in the April 2009 edition.

Novotney describes a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill program headed by psychologist Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D. She writes, “Bulik in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is conducting a novel clinical trial to compare the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of an online cognitive behavioral therapy augmented with therapist-moderated, weekly online chat session -- Bulik hopes the online program proves effective so it could help those in rural areas who suffer from the [eating] disorder.”

UNC also has plans, Novotney writes, “… to test a couples-based anorexia treatment ... Twenty-four couples are taking part in the year-long clinical trial comparing the UCAN—Uniting Couples in the treatment of Anorexia Nervosa intervention to traditional family supportive therapy.”

According to Novotney, author and psychologist Dr. Margo Maine “…is also working with older adult women with eating disorders. Most of these women feel shame about their disorder, she says, thinking that they should have outgrown such 'teenage' problems. Through individual therapy, Maine helps validate their experiences as women by discussing the many cultural and societal pressures women face in terms of perfectionism and weight and shape."

Through individual therapy, Maine helps validate their experiences as women by discussing the many cultural and societal pressures women face in terms of perfectionism and weight and shape. “This is the forgotten story in eating disorders," Maine says.

Another innovative program in Minnesota, reported by Columbia Tribune, is called the Anna Westin House. Staff writer Darlene Prois writes, “One unusual aspect of the program is that it incorporates traditional Western practices with Eastern alternative medicine. Those include art and dance therapy, massage, aromatherapy and spiritual practices.”

Kitty Westin, founder of the Westin House, said, “We wanted to use some of the Eastern methods of healing because eating disorders have a huge anxiety component and a lot of the Eastern approaches address that really well.”

These are just a few of the programs I found that dealt with adult anorexia. And I’m sure with the new understanding that eating disorders affect older women, coupled with the latest research into the biological component of eating disorders, that soon effective treatments will be available for all who suffer from them.

"Older women fight eating disorders Patients seek out help in middle age." Columbia Daily Tribune. Columbia Daily Tribune MO. 2006. HighBeam Research. 5 Jan. 2010 .


"The house where hope lives; The Anna Westin House opened in Chaska last week, becoming Minnesota's first residential treatment center for women with eating disorders. The renovated twin town home is dedicated to Anna, who committed suicide three years ago at age 21.(NEWS)." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN). Star Tribune Co. 2003. HighBeam Research. 5 Jan. 2010 .

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