Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia have long been considered diseases of the young, but experts say that in recent years, more American women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and above have been seeking help . Most of the women in this age group have had the problem for years, said Donald McAlpine, director of an eating disorders clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, US. “The epidemiology is pretty clear that anorexia and bulimia both peak in the late teens and early 20s, yet a lot of (patients) continue to be symptomatic right on through to middle life,” he said.
People who study eating disorders suggest several reasons for more women above the age of 30 seeking treatment for what is typically a young woman’s problem: growing public awareness, social pressure to be thin, etc. “Whatever the reason, those numbers are staggering,” said Carol Tappen, director of operations for the Eating Disorders Institute.
Women over 30 who seek treatment tend to fall into three categories, said Holly Grishkat, who directs outpatient programmes at Renfrew Center, a network of treatment centres in the eastern US.
Some have had an eating disorder for years. Others had a disorder in remission that resurfaced because of new stress in life, such as a divorce or loss of a parent. A third group, the smallest of the three, includes women who develop an eating disorder late in life.