Saturday, April 2, 2011

Midlife Eating Disorders

An article in the New York Times examined the growing prevalence of eating disorders in middle aged women. According to the article, a trend in the last 10 years shows that women have been engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as “starving themselves, abusing laxatives, exercising to dangerous extremes,” etc. Previously these behaviors have been viewed as ‘adolescent’ in nature, when in fact they often occur during transitional periods of life.

Origins of eating disorders are often debated. Currently the dual interaction between genetics and environment is accepted as the cause within the mental health community, although still debated. Treatment is oriented towards behavioral and cognitive modifications. Due to the growing number of disorders emerging during midlife, some new treatment centers have started to orient their services towards 30-and-older crowds.

It seems like providing the distinction will help better address the needs of those affected. While the issues and treatments may be similar regardless of age, the attitudes among the patients may not be. Middle aged women with eating disorders tend to self-initiate treatment more often than their younger counterparts, which may reflect a different outlook in patients.
 Providing different treatment environments for women who may have been long suffering with the disorder in silence, while raising families, working, etc. is smart on several levels. It caters more to the patients’ unique needs while making it possible for those who feel trapped by the teenage stereotype of eating disorders to speak up and find help they need and deserve.

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