Junkfood Science: Not bound by age

July 23, 2007

Not bound by age

Many of those struggling with disordered eating don’t fit the popular image of a teenage girl. A sufferer may be a young man, fat woman, elementary school child, babyboomer or grandmother. In fact, eating disorder treatment centers across the country are reporting that they’re seeing more older Americans...notably more:

Doctors Treating Older Anorexics

...Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have long been considered diseases of the young, but experts say in recent years more women have been seeking help in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and older....Nicollet Health Services' Eating Disorders Institute saw 43 patients age 38 in 2003 - about 9 percent of its total patients. For the first six months of this year, the institute has treated nearly 500 patients over 38, about 35 percent of its total.

The Renfrew Center, a network of treatment centers in the eastern U.S., said about 20 percent of the 522 patients treated at its Philadelphia center in 2005 were 30 or older. In 2006, about 13 percent of the 600 patients were in that age group. “Whatever this is - if it's an increased awareness, if it's a response to being in midlife - those numbers are staggering," said Carol Tappen, director of operations for the Eating Disorders Institute.

Women over 30 who seek treatment tend to fall into three categories, said Holly Grishkat, who directs outpatient programs at Renfrew. Some have had an eating disorder for years. Others had a disorder in remission that resurfaced because of new stress in life, such as a divorce or loss of a parent. A third group, the smallest of the three, includes women who develop an eating disorder late in life....

While body image is an issue for any age group, women over 30 are dealing with problems that teens don't have, such as work, divorce, stepchildren and aging parents...They also are dealing with an aging process....

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