Saturday, 5 September 2009

Anorexia in Adults

I have been reading about the rise of eating diorders in adults.

It seems to make sense.

The following is taken from the University of Rochester Medical Centre, US webpage.

No Age Limits on Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week takes place from Feb. 25 through March 3, and doctors hope the event will bring greater awareness that there is no age restriction when it comes to these disorders.

"It can happen to anybody at any stage of their life," says Dr. Alexander Sackeyfio, a psychiatrist and eating-disorder specialist at the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "I think we're becoming more aware of it and are better at diagnosing it."

Dr. Bunnell says anorexics tend to be preoccupied with their body shape or weight, and often suffer from anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. By contrast, bulimics tend to be depressed and impulsive, often struggling with substance-abuse issues.

"The anorexic style is more overly controlled, tense and rigid, while the bulemic style is less controlled, impulsive or disregulated," Dr. Bunnell says.

Eating Disorders Can be Fatal
People tend to make another mistake in their perception of eating disorders - they assume they are relatively benign psychological problems that are easily treated and without lasting physical effects, says Dr. Doug Bunnell, clinical director of the Renfrew Center in Wilton, Conn.

"People are surprised when they learn these have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis, somewhere between 10 and 15 percent," says Dr. Bunnell, who is also a member of the National Eating Disorders Association board of directors.

Anorexia produces dramatic weight loss caused by excessive or compulsive dieting. An estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Midlife Resurgence or First Appearance of Problem?
Dr. Bunnell says he is seeing more middle-age or even older women coming in for treatment of an eating disorder. But, he is not sure that all of these are new cases developing later in life.

"My experience is that virtually all the women we've seen with eating-disorder symptoms in their 30s or 40s had some prior activity in the more typical age range," Dr. Bunnell says. "It may not have been diagnosed, or just short of being serious, but there was a period when they were really struggling with it. We've not seen a lot of brand new, out-of-the-blue eating disorder cases in older women."

Other doctors believe that hormonal fluctuations that occur near menopause could set off an eating disorder, as could mid-life changes like divorce or the departure of grown children. As the family changes, some women find themselves grasping for some semblance of control - one of the needs that an eating disorder can fulfill.

Complicating matters for the older patient is the fact that women coming in for treatment later in life may find it harder to get the help they need. For decades, the focus has been young women, and only recently has the therapeutic field begun to expand into treatment for older women - and men, Dr. Sackeyfio says.

Ideally, someone with an eating disorder should be working with a team that includes a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and a physician, Dr. Sackeyfio says.

"They aren't spoiled brats who are trying to make people's lives harder," he says. "They really have very little control over the physical changes that they cause in their own bodies.

It is an interesting point that an eating disorder rarely springs out of nowhere and most adults have struggled previously to a greater or lesser extent.
I have been obsessed on and off since my teens, though I suspect that it was mainly a reaction to watching my sister.
Now though, it is different.
It is about things too shameful to write about.


  1. Hi-

    In my work in addiction services, and most specifically with women, it is SO true that eating disorders are ageless. Excellent information you have offered here.
    Also, you mention "things to shameful to write about". I so know that feeling -
    I applaud your journey and understand it intimately.

    Love Gail

  2. Very informative. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thing is I know as a woman that I spend far too long not being happy with my shape. Although it does have to be said that since having a mastectomy I have undergone a seachange in some of my attitudes. It's always my fat belly that preoccupies me... I'm a perfectly normal size 12 (UK)> So I know if I'm preoccupied with this shit then my clients are going to have it worse whatever their size.
    It is a part of western women's culture, helped along by advertising and the fashion industry. I could go on and on here,but perhaps I should stop taking over your blog and do a post on it!
    Thanks for stopping by, good to meet you.

  4. Thanks folks.

    Gail - I'd just like to clarify that when I mention "things too shameful to mention", it's not about abuse. It is really important to me that people know that as far as I know, I have pretty much no reason to be in this situation.
    I have not suffered the horrors that many people have and yet, for whatever reason, I seem to have ended up with the feeings and behaviours of someone who has.

    Wanda and Just Be Real - Thank you for reading.

    Fire Byrd - No! Thank YOU for stopping by! I'm sorry that you too are preoccupied by "fat belly syndrome".
    Yes, I suppose it is part of Western culture and may have a lot to do with the media's portrayal of what "acceptable" looks like... However, if you read some of the research, in older women I think it's a lot more to do with a sense of emptiness and fear and control...
    I'd be very interested to read about your own thoughts on it if you were to write a post!