Treatments for Eating Disorders
Expert’s Name: Lisa Enslow
Eating disorders – such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating – are not just for teenagers. The hallmarks of these disorders include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. While the media gives attention to eating disorders in young girls, there are a growing number of mature women suffering from these emotionally and physically destructive behaviors. Regardless of age, it is vital to identify, acknowledge and seek treatment for any kind of disordered eating.
Factors that May Cause Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are not merely preoccupations with food and weight. They are rooted in much deeper emotional issues, and are often the result of the use of food to satisfy emotional needs. Food can represent comfort, love, excitement and many other emotions. Controlling one’s intake of food can represent a sense of control over life when everything else seems out of control. The psychological factors that can contribute to a vulnerability to eating disorders include low self esteem, a lack of control over life, depression, stress or loneliness.
Our cultural norms that place value on people based on their physical appearance are also culprits in the world of eating disorders. Just look at any magazine stand and note the number of headlines that promote weight loss and flat bellies, and imply that if you are anything less than thin you are unworthy. This constant barrage of information about weight loss is particularly difficult if you are a middle-aged woman confronting the fact that you are no longer youthful looking. The vulnerability that women may begin feeling as they get older can be a catalyst for disordered eating that will seemingly help them to be thinner, if not younger.
Heredity also plays a part in eating disorders, with estimates that as much as 50 to 80 percent of eating disorder risk is genetically linked.
Eating Disorders in Older Women
There are three categories of older women with eating disorders: women who have suffered “under the radar” from the eating disorder for years without treatment, women who had an eating disorder when young that has now resurfaced, and women who develop the eating disorder for the first time as a mature adult. As women are the typical manager of food for the family, it is easy for a woman to hide an eating disorder from others. In addition, it is convenient to hide behind the “I’m on a diet” phrase when asked about restricted eating patterns. The denial of an eating disorder will only allow the physical and emotional destruction caused by the disorders to continue.
Physical and Emotional Damage from Eating Disorders
Eating disorders damage almost every system in the body: cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, dental, esophageal, digestive, endocrine and mental.
Especially if the eating disorder is a long term one, these can be life threatening problems.
Additionally, the emotional scars resulting from years of negative body image and disgust with their own bodies are extremely destructive to a woman. Children of women suffering from an eating disorder are also harmed by her behavior and are more likely to suffer from negative self image issues.