Teenage girls and twenty-something young women tend to be the “face” of eating disorders. The truth of the matter is that these young females are not the only populations that suffer from these diseases. An often unseen face of eating disorders are middle-aged women (ages 40-60).
Middle-aged women who suffer from eating disorders tend to fall into one of three groups: 1) those who have suffered from an eating disorder since a younger age and are just now seeking treatment, 2) those who suffered from an eating disorder at a younger age, sought treatment, and have now relapsed back into an active eating disorder, or 3) those women who did not develop an eating disorder until they reached middle age.
Much like their younger counter parts, middle aged women see food as a way to establish control over their bodies and their lives that may seem out of control. Controlling their food gives these women an emotional outlet and gives them a feeling of power over their lives.
Middle-aged women can experience stress factors similar to their younger counter parts such body dissatisfaction and societal pressure to be thin. There are also several stressors that are unique to middle-aged women such as divorce, career or financial troubles, parenting troubles, loss of a parent, or even the effects of menopause.
These women are more likely to suffer from binge eating disorder, other specified feeding or eating disorder (formerly eating disorder not otherwise specified), or sub-threshold eating disorders (symptoms or characteristics of an eating disorder, but not enough to meet criteria of a full diagnosis).
While little research has been done on middle-aged women with eating disorders, one thing is clear: eating disorders are not age specific, and this population cannot be ignored. To find out more, get help, or assist a loved one experiencing an eating disorder, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.