Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Aging of Eating Disorders: Middle-aged Women Fight the Devastating Disease

By Kim Dennis, M.D., Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center 

Photograph Courtesy of Timberline Knolls

With a mortality rate higher than any other mental illness, including depression, eating disorder awareness ought to pervade society and the medical community alike. Sadly, they don’t. While you might be hard-pressed to find anyone unfamiliar with the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, eating disorders are not a frontrunner for awareness, research, treatment or recovery dollars. Even though each year eating disorders affect 20 times more Americans than HIV/AIDS, for every $20,000 spent on HIV/AIDS research, only $1 is spent on eating disorder research.
This may be due in part to the commonly misunderstood and underestimated characteristics of the illness. While adolescent girls and fashion models are typically viewed as the poster girls for eating disorders, in reality, they have plenty of company. Eating disorders are equal-opportunity offenders – pervading economic and cultural boundaries and leaping the borders of age and gender. Eating disorders are treatable diseases, and full recovery is possible. However, without adequate treatment and support, the journey to get there can be excruciatingly long and arduous, fraught with setbacks, and impossible to accomplish alone.

Over the past 5-10 years, we have been seeing a growing number of older women seeking treatment for eating disorders. It is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately estimate how many women struggle with mid-life eating disorders. According to information from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), it is important to remember the ability to quantify figures can be challenging, particularly because individuals struggling with an eating disorder are often in denial about their illness, and hospitalizations frequently focus on the physical consequences of the disease, rather than the illness itself...finish article

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