Once thought of as a disease primarily affecting teenagers and young women, eating disorders are increasingly being seen in women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.
As women are feeling increased pressure to maintain a youthful façade, and seeing women like Madonna and Sharon Stone turn or pass 50 without a wrinkle, they feel the same pressures as women half their age.
Add to this the stress of divorce, menopause, middle-aged weight gain and empty nest syndrome; eating disorders can become a way for women to feel like they are in control.
"Some have struggled with these problems for 20 years or more ... for others, it seems to start at menopause, or when there is loss of spouse, a crisis," says David Herzog, MD, director of the Harvard Eating Disorders Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
"We see women become anorexic while trying to lose pregnancy weight," he tells WebMD. "It can even start during the pregnancy, this struggle with weight issues. The women become obsessed with body image, they've been on a series of diets and weight-loss programs. But at some point, the wish to lose weight becomes overwhelming, an obsession."
Much is due to our "culture of extremes," Herzog says. "We tend to not do things in moderation. That's where [these women] get into difficulty. There is no middle ground. They want to be perfect. They don't want to be average." “
Another problem is that while a teen may be forced into rehab for her disorder, it’s a lot more difficult to stage a confrontation or intervention with a grown woman.
WebMD has a list of signs (aside from obvious weight loss )that may signal someone has an eating disorder
• A dramatic change in eating patterns
• Declining invitations to dine socially
• Often leaving the table for the bathroom
• Severe change in mood.
Another source for people looking for help is The National Eating Disorders Association at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Are over or someone you know over the ‘usual’ age for eating disorders and find yourself dieting to extremes or obsessing with your weight? What triggered the obsession? How do you (or they) cope?
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