Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When eating disorders strike in mid-life

Eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, are generally classified as a young woman's disease. Now, according to a recent New York Times article, more and more women in their 30s and 40s are developing eating disorders.

“I think the degree of despair we are seeing among adult women about their bodies is unrivaled,” said Margo Maine, co-author of “The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect” (Wiley, 2005). “Eating disorders creep up during periods of developmental transitions, so the peak had been 13 to 15 and 17 to 19 — moving into adolescence and moving into college. Now, we are seeing them again during or after pregnancy and as women hit other life phases, such as empty nesting.”

“A problem is that friends, and even doctors, get used to seeing someone in their overly skinny state and may not recognize their habits and physique as dangerously unhealthy,” said Dr. David Herzog, the director of the Harris Center for Education and Advocacy in Eating Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the endowed professor in the field of eating disorders at Harvard Medical School.

WebMD even has a specific section of their website geared towards older women and eating disorders. This is an awareness that is growing among addictions- that these kind of things can strike anyone, anywhere, whether it's drug addiction, eating disorders or other compulsive behaviors. Money, success, fame (see Michael Jackson) or any other factor can't completely shield someone from these terrible diseases. The best we can ask for is awareness and the ability to get help.

What Dr. Herzog said above, about doctors not being able to recognize the behavior, is one of the biggest problems in America. Doctors receive little education around recognizing and treating eating disorders and addiction unless they really ask for it or specialize in it. This leaves an entire generation of doctors on their own, trying to help people in a general practice where these things may go unnoticed for long periods of time. Once again- educate, educate, educate and raise awareness! If you think there's a problem- if you're asking yourself if you drink too much, smoke too much pot, or aren't eating enough, ask for help! There is no shame in getting better. I think that's the biggest stigma in our culture- that somehow living with a huge problem and not getting help, attempting to pull oneself up by the bootstraps if you will, is a better option than asking for help with a major problem. This is something each individual can change for themselves. If you need help, you won't get it if you don't ask.

Miss America Kristen Haglund is involved in eating disorder awareness:

And here's a video on older women and eating disorders from CBS:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Here's something funny.

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1 comment:

  1. Eating disorders continue to effect more and more people as times goes on. Not only does is effect young adults, but it is starting to effect middle aged individuals as well. There are so many different places to get information and/or help for your eating disorder, finding the right help is important to your road to recovery. EatingDisorder.com is a great informational site about eating disorders, their symptoms and causes, as well as treatment options that are available. If you or someone you know is in need of help for an eating disorder, you should take a look at EatingDisorder.com, it will be extremely helpful .