Eating Disorders in Adult Women

Eating Disorders in Adult WomenAccording to the results of a survey published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the incidence of eating disorders among women 50 years and older is on the rise. According to the Mayo Clinic, the main types of eating disorders include the following:

  • Anorexia nervosa – A disorder characterized by limiting the consumption of food to starvation levels
  • Bulimia nervosa – A disorder characterized by purging food after its consumption through vomiting or the use of laxatives to encourage excessive bowel movements

The common component of these eating disorders is the sufferer’s intense preoccupation with food and weight to the exclusion of other aspects of life such as family and career.

Causes of Eating Disorders in Adult Women

The primary factor that contributes to eating disorders in adult women is dissatisfaction with their bodies. As is true with women of other age groups that experience eating disorders, other factors contribute to this issue, including the following:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, or loneliness
  • Troubled family and personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
  • History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Cultural pressures that glorify thinness and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
  • Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths
  • Genetic contributions

According to a 2008 study in the Journal of General Psychology, the most common drivers include stress, depression, perfectionism, and social pressure to be thin, in addition to body dissatisfaction.

Menopause’s Role in Eating Disorders

Weight gain and body changes related to aging contribute to an adult women’s risk for eating disorders. Menopause, in particular, impacts women’s physical shape, even those who are eating healthy and exercising regularly. Because menopause causes the metabolism to slow down and estrogen production to drop, most women gain an average of nine pounds due to menopause; this additional weight often causes a thicker middle. In the survey published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, frustration with menopause-related weight gain was a common response.

More than 70% of the women in the survey said they were currently trying to lose weight, 62% said that the concerns about weight, shape, or eating had a negative impact on their life, and 41% said they scrutinized their body at least once a day.

Treating Eating Disorders

It is important to get treatment for an eating disorder because eating disorders can lead to serious heart problems, digestive problems, tooth decay, and osteoporosis, which is already a major concern for postmenopausal women. In fact, an eating disorder over a long period of time can be fatal.

The standard treatment for disordered eating typically includes psychotherapy, as well as counseling about nutrition and eating habits.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are often stigmatized and sufferers may be reluctant to admit they have a problem. However, the sooner you can get help for someone with an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood that she can recover. Call our confidential, toll-free helpline to get the answers to any questions you might have about eating disorders, treatment options, and recovery. We are available 24 hours a day to help you find the right treatment program for you and can provide you with options, information about insurance, and useful resources. Call today, we are here to help.