Eating disorders are usually associated with teenage girls and young women, but more and more women in the baby boomer generation are suffering from them as well. Clinicians who treat eating disorders report an upswing in requests for help from these women, and surveys show a steady increase in the percentage of older people who engage in disordered eating behaviors such as strict fasting, purging, and bingeing, reports Harvard Women's Health Watch.
Many things can cause disordered eating at midlife and beyond, including grief over the loss of loved ones, marital difficulties or divorce, and heightened awareness of an aging body, which can be particularly acute in women who must work beyond retirement age, especially in fields where looks are important.
Two of the most common eating disorders in women are bulimia nervosa, characterized by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time followed by forced vomiting, and anorexia nervosa, which is an obsessive fear of gaining weight that leads to severe food restriction and the use of laxatives and diet pills. Treatment focuses on restoring a healthy eating pattern and weight and addressing emotional issues. This usually means getting help from one or more physicians, a mental health professional, and a nutritional counselor. Approaches include:
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