When most people think of bulimia nervosa, they imagine a young girl in middle or high school. However, the reality is that eating disorders don’t only affect the young. They can affect older generations of people as well. In this article, we discuss the specific situation of middle-aged women struggling with bulimia nervosa. When we better understand the statistics of this condition in women of this age group and effective treatment, more women in this position can work to get the help they need. And, establish successful recovery so that healing can commence.
Reports on Middle-Aged Women Living With Bulimia
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, women over the age of 50 have concerns about weight and body image just as younger women do. This means that there isn’t really a set age for this experience or struggle. Furthermore, another study suggests that an average of 20% of women in the USA are unhappy with their body. This includes women of all ages, so it’s important to understand that it’s not uncommon for middle-aged women to be dissatisfied with their bodies too. As a result of these weight and body concerns, many women, regardless of age, develop eating disorder behaviors. Of course, these behaviors can include those which characterize bulimia nervosa.
Bulimia Isn’t Just a Young Woman’s Disease
It’s true that eating disorders are prevalent in young women. And, it’s even true that young women may struggle with eating disorder behaviors more than older women. However, this does not mean that middle-aged or even older women can’t experience bulimia nervosa. In fact, according to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), “13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.”
In order to address and treat eating disorders in older women, it’s important to understand how they develop. This way, they can use specific tools in treatment in order to help these women develop the specific skill sets they may need to address unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.
There are three categories of women who have eating disorders later in life:
- The women who develop eating disorders earlier in life but have never gotten help or been able to obtain recovery. This is the most common case for older and middle-aged women living with bulimia nervosa.
- The women who have been through treatment or have been in recovery but eventually experience relapse.
- The women who have developed eating disorder behaviors later in life.
When Eating Disorders Develop Mid-Life
Most of the women who are middle-aged that are diagnosed with bulimia nervosa have developed the disorder earlier in life. Unfortunately, most individuals who struggle with eating disorders never get the help they need to recover. So, that explains why women who are middle-aged may continue with eating disorder behaviors. Certainly, it may have been a challenge to hide these unhealthy behaviors for so many years. But, in all reality, it is harder for some people to open up about their eating disorders than get the help they need to stay alive and well. Thus, how the most common way for older women to have bulimia is if they had developed it sometime in their early years.
However, there are some women who develop eating disorders later in life. Many believe this is due to the fact that there are many changes women deal with during the middle of their lives. These changes can include weight gain due to menopause. Of course, gaining weight can lead to body dissatisfaction, which is the main reason many may develop disordered eating. Additionally, middle-aged women may be dealing with a new aspect of life; and empty nest. Watching children leave home and begin their own lives can be a challenging adjustment. And, can bring about negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, and even anger. Thus, leading to an attempt to mask and numb these feelings with unhealthy mechanisms including disordered eating behaviors.
Getting Help for Eating Disorders as a Middle-Aged Woman
Whether a woman has developed bulimia nervosa in her early life or by the time she’s middle-aged, there’s always hope to recover. And, there are treatment facilities that focus on helping women of any age struggling with eating disorders and other mental health issues.
Willow Place for Women is one of these facilities. To learn more about how we help middle-aged women living with bulimia nervosa, contact us today.