Midlife eat­ing dis­or­ders are on the rise

North Penn Life - - Opinion -

: KLOe eatLnJ GL­soUGeUs such as anorexia, bu­limia and binge eat­ing usu­ally af­fect young women, re­cent sta­tis­tics sug­gest that in­creas­ing num­bers of mid­dle- aged women are strug­gling with these dis­or­ders as well.

Ex­perts say that these prob­lems are of­ten un­der­re­ported in this age group be­cause older adults may be even more ashamed than younger women to ad­mit to these is­sues, view­ing eat­ing dis­or­ders as an ado­les­cent dis­ease. In ad­di­tion, physi­cians treat­ing older women are not typ­i­cally look­ing for symp­toms of these dis­or­ders in the same way that they might be with younger pa­tients.

It is rare that an eat­ing dis­or­der will show up sud­denly in midlife for the first time, but more typ­i­cally, a long- stand­ing prob­lem with eat­ing can be­come re­ac­ti­vated dur­ing this time pe­riod.

: KLOe soPe oOGeU woPen who be­come symp­tom- atic may have been treated dur­ing ado­les­cence and young adult­hood for clin­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant eat­ing prob­lems, oth­ers may have just al­ways been thin and care­ful about what they ate for years.

There are a va­ri­ety of trig­gers spe­cific to mid­dle age that may set in mo­tion a more full- blown eat­ing dis­or­der in cer­tain vul­ner­a­ble women. Midlif­ers tend to be deal­ing with a range of losses in­clud­ing chil­dren go­ing off to col­lege, med­i­cal is­sues, car­ing for an ail­ing par­ent and di­vorce.

In ad­di­tion, weight gain and bod­ily changes re­lated to ag­ing can play a role as well. For in­stance, as menopause un­folds, me­tab­o­lism be­gins to slow down and the pro­duc­tion of es­tro­gen de­creases. This can lead to a shift in the dis­tri­bu­tion of weight and a “thicker mid­dle,” even for women who eat very healthy foods and ex­er­cise reg­u­larly.

The nor­mal 8- to 10- pound weight gain which oc­curs for many, as they pass through menopause, can be trig­ger­ing for women with pre­dis­po­si­tions to­ward dis­or­dered eat­ing. Ag­ing in a so­ci­ety that val­ues youth, thin­ness and per­fec­tion can take its toll on cer­tain baby boomers who be­come in­creas­ingly pre­oc­cu­pied and dis­tracted by their chang­ing weight and shape.

Eat­ing dis­or­ders, at any age, can lead to se­ri­ous phys­i­cal con­se­quences but are es­pe­cially hard on a woman’s body over a long pe­riod of time. They can com­pound the risks of car­diac prob­lems and os­teo­poro­sis, which are al­ready con­cerns for post­menopausal women.

As women age, their bod­ies are less re­silient, and the ad­di­tional stress of an eat­ing dis­or­der can el­e­vate the chances of many other com­pli­ca­tions as well.

The treat­ment for adult women with eat­ing dis­or­ders should in­clude in­di­vid­ual psy­chother­apy, nu­tri­tional coun­sel­ing and med­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing.

There are also spe­cial­ized groups and more in­ten­sive treat­ment proJUaPs, suFK as at tKe 5enIUew Cen­teU, sSeFLILFaOOy de­signed for mid­dle- aged women. In ad­di­tion, the 1atLonaO EatLnJ DL­soUGeUs As­so­ci­a­tion is an ex­cel­lent re­source for in­for­ma­tion on this topic.

Dr. Caryn Rich­field is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist prac­tic­ing in Ply­mouth Meet­ing. She can be reached at 610- 238- 4450 or at dr­crich­field@ aol. com.

Cop­ing Dr. Caryn Rich­field

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