middle age woman eating disorders
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Most people who work in the field of addiction and mental health will probably agree that eating disorders are extremely difficult to treat and are under diagnosed. When we talk about eating disorders, conditions such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia typically come to mind first. What’s more, such disorders are most often associated with adolescent girls, and there are many who might find it surprising to learn that older women are susceptible as well.

It may seem like as people age they become less concerned about body image, shape and weight. However, new research suggests that a large number of middle-age women are seeking help for eating disorders, The Daily Beast reports. The study on perimenopausal eating disorders was conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) was published in the journal Maturitas.

The research highlights the fact that eating disorders can affect people over the course of one’s life, and that there is belief among many physicians that middle-aged women are not susceptible to unhealthy eating conditions, according the article. In fact, some older women who have sought help for eating disorders have been brushed off by their doctors.

“Physicians and the general public have had this long-term belief that midlife women are somehow immune to eating disorders, and that’s just not true,” said study co-author Jessica Baker at UNC.

Part of the reason that many doctors are unwilling to diagnose older women with eating disorders is rooted in stereotypes that have long surrounded such conditions. People often think of eating disorders as something that traditionally only affects one demographic, the article writes. Stereotypically, eating disorders affect females that are:

  • Young
  • White
  • Thin
  • Wealthy

The CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, Claire Mysko, points out that eating disorders impact people of all:

  • Body Weights
  • Races
  • Ethnicities
  • Genders
  • Age Groups

“Dieting and weight loss are painted as solutions to everything in our culture, and it’s easy to grab onto that and have it spiral into an eating disorder,” Mysko said.