Ladies, beware! Eating disorders can strike in midlife too

Ladies, beware! Eating disorders can strike in midlife too

As per a new research by the University College London (UCL), around 3 percent women in their 40s and 50s have an eating problem. The study utilized data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and was published in the BMC Medicine journal.

The study questioned 5,300 women in their 40s and 50s in Britain and found that 15 percent of the participants suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Of these 15 percent, 3 percent experienced the disorder within the past year.

Traditionally, while younger women are said to suffer from eating disorders, Dr. Nadia Micali, the study’s lead author, said that eating disorders are not just confined to the earlier decades of life. In fact, the study showed that both chronic and new eating disorders can be apparent in midlife too.

While some women admitted that they had experienced an eating disorder since their teenage years, others developed it for the first time in their middle age. Dr. Micali reflected that as many women in the study confessed to have spoken on the issue for the first time, it was important to evaluate the factors that may be associated with the onset of these disorders. Such factors may include issues like relationship with parents, sexual abuse, childhood happiness, parental divorce, and traumatic life events.

Dr. Agnes Ayton, vice chair, faculty of eating disorders, Royal College of Psychiatrists, observes that these numbers are surprising as most research on eating disorders among women focus on adolescents and younger adults. According to researchers, experts should be made aware of these findings to help them diagnose problems in middle-aged women who might be reluctant to talk about their eating disorders. Christopher Fairburn, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, further observes that the study clearly shows that very few of these women have had the required treatment.

Anorexia and bulimia are the two most common eating disorders in the U.K. According to Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat, UK’s eating disorder charity, the world often sees people with eating disorders as young, addicts and being mentally affected. Such stigmas can prevent individuals from seeking the required treatment.

Recovery is possible

As per the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).

According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, around two-thirds of women with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia will eventually recover. The research analyzed 246 participants for more than 20 years. During the first decade, the participants were interviewed every six to 12 months and were contacted for a follow-up session between 20 and 25 years. As per Dr. Kamryn Eddy, corresponding author of the study, the result of these findings challenges the notion that eating disorders are a life sentence. Though the road to recovery is often long, eventually most people do get better.

Road to recovery

Many women suffer from eating disorders that often begin in childhood and can stem from a variety of factors including low self-esteem, peer pressure, and child abuse, among others. Eating disorders are biologically based on grave mental illnesses that can lead to mental and physical health problems, and in severe cases may involve heart failure and even death.

If you know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder or any other mental illness, contact Sovereign Health to get access to our top mental health facilities in California or in any other state. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 866-973-7164 or chat online with our experts for more information on the best mental health centers in California.

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