According to a New York Times article, over 10 million people suffer from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. And while the majority of those suffering are teens and young adults, more and more older women are being diagnosed with eating disorders.
“We’re hearing from women, no matter how old they are, that they still have to achieve this societal ideal of thinness and perfection,” said Cynthia M. Bulik, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “Even in their 50s and 60s — and, believe it or not, beyond — women are engaging in extreme weight- and shape-control behaviors.”
The catalyst for eating disorders in women of any age is usually a stressful situation of some kind – in the case of older women, sending a child to college or getting a divorce can be the cause.
The reason why this age group has flown under the radar is because they are somewhat more adept in covering these eating disorders up, or simply not recognizing the problem at all. Symptoms of an eating disorder, such as losing weight and stopping menstruation, can be attributed to menopause and the results of aging.
Similarly, we don’t always assume that the working mother of three has an eating disorder. It goes against societal norms. “Often they [physicians] don’t ask questions because they have in their mind this stereotypical picture of eating disorders as a problem of white, middle-class teenagers,” explained Dr. Bulik.
Physicians are working to recognize eating disorders in the older generation of women, and make sure they can distinguish between them and other health or age-related problems.