Statistics can be somewhat ambiguous when it comes to eating disorders. Over the years, there have been countless studies conducted surrounding the prevalence of illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Although many of these studies convey slightly different findings, one thing is certain: Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders.

While the majority of eating disorder sufferers are young women and adolescent girls, research has discovered that more and more males — an estimated 10 to 15 percent — are struggling with eating disorders as well. Additionally, incidents of these disorders in older women have been on a steady incline in recent years.

Why the Upward Trend?

New information is surfacing in regard to women in their 40s, 50s and 60s maintaining a negative body image, and as a result, continuing unhealthy eating patterns or developing eating disorders. Recent studies have found that over 60 percent of women 50 years of age and older are acutely concerned about their weight. Roughly 13 percent of these women suffer from some type of eating disorder.

Some older women keep their eating-related struggles hidden for years. Others, after having addressed an eating disorder earlier in life to at least some degree, relapse as they approach middle age. There are of course a variety of other factors that may contribute to the development of eating disorders in middle-aged women. These include a divorce or the loss of a mate where a woman feels she needs to lose weight to regain a level of attractiveness. It’s also not out of the question for a woman to develop an eating disorder for the first time later in life.

Never Too Late to Begin Treatment

Regardless of age or gender, anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and treatment methods for other eating-related illnesses have evolved throughout the years. The percentage of successful outcomes continues to increase. Treatment for eating disorders usually consists of a combination of nutritional counseling, individual or group therapy, and in many cases, medications.

With the discovery of eating disorders in so many older women, mental health professionals are realizing that life-long care may be required even after a young woman has shown significant signs of recovery. However, those who get help for eating disorders early do have the best chance at long-term recovery.


This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders in various forms. Although eating disorders overwhelmingly affect girls and women, males are certainly not immune to these potentially deadly mental health conditions.

The three major types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia is basically an obsession with thinness where the sufferer will severely limit their food intake. Bulimia is characterized by eating large quantities of food, then afterwards attempting to offset the effects of mass caloric consumption through actions such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise and the taking of laxatives. Binge eating is compulsive overeating with an inability to gain control during periods of consumption, which vary in duration.

What’s Beneath the Surface?

A variety of circumstances can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Studies have indicated that genetics may play a role in many cases. But aside from pre-existing anxiety or mood disorders, cultural and other psychological factors are often at the heart of abnormal eating habits and full-blown eating disorders.

In a society that conveys a thin-is-attractive message, many girls and women feel pressured to lose weight or remain slim. In order to accomplish this, they will often cultivate unhealthy eating habits that can eventually lead to serious health problems, or worse.

A distorted body image is one major psychological issue that many who develop eating disorders struggle with. This is a situation where an individual — despite their actual physique — will see themselves as much larger than they truly are.

Efforts to Heal

The first order of business in anorexia cases is to restore the patient’s weight to a healthy level. But in all eating disorders cases, the chief goals of therapy are to help patients adjust their habits and belief systems as well as establish a healthier view of themselves and a more realistic overall outlook.

Anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and the treatment of binge eating disorders usually begins with some form of psychotherapy or “talk” therapy. This is often done in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapies. For more severe cases, eating disorders treatment centers are located throughout the country where a patient can be monitored, receive proper nutrition and nutritional counseling as well as have medications administered to them, if deemed necessary.


This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.