Admit it: when you hear the words anorexia or bulimia , most of the time you think of a teenage girl who goes without food or who stuffs herself before making herself vomit. Research and the media have always told us that eating disorders mostly affect young women. Yet a recent study in the UK revealed a more complex picture.
Eating disorders affect around three percent of women in their 40s and 50s, according to this new study from University College London, while other studies have estimated that nearly one in 100 women aged 15 to 30 have a diagnosis of eating disorder.
Of the 5,300 Britons aged 40 to 59 who participated, 15 percent had had an eating disorder, of which 3 percent had been in the past year. It is not uncommon for a person to struggle with a problem for several years before seeking help.
Eating Disorders: A Limitless Scourge
It appears that thousands of middle-aged women are secretly living with an eating disorder that arises after divorce, financial problems or bereavement during this period of their lives  . In the UK study, the most common problem was binge eating . Moreover, although many of these women had coped with an eating disorder for a long time, two in five had developed it rather late  . In short, this study shows that eating disorders are chronic mental illnesses that can develop long after adolescence.
Unfortunately, many of the participants admitted that it was the first time they had spoken about their problem. Why don’t they go and get help? Is our society so obsessed with diets and the perfect body that we fail to recognize a true eating disorder when it descends into a vicious cycle?
We spoke with Ann Kerr, Clinical Director of Waterstone Institution, in Toronto, which deals with eating disorders. Ann Kerr is a registered occupational therapist and has worked in mental health for over 30 years. We asked her what, in her experience, could cause an eating disorder in middle-aged women: “They can develop an eating disorder because of the changes in body shape that occur during this time, especially due to menopause and changes in the distribution of body fat. In addition, they are more concerned than before about their body image and feel more compelled to counter old age and the signs of aging. However, the most common cause remains the underlying issues with body image, weight or figure experienced throughout life. “
Also according to Ann Kerr, it is possible that middle-aged women avoid asking for help because they would rather control their weight and figure on their own rather than face the even more painful emotions at the origin. of their eating disorder. They may also see these disorders as a problem for adolescent girls.
Stigma can influence the diagnosis of eating disorders: for example, men often suffer in silence. Indeed, for a man, suffering from a mental illness often associated with young women can create a feeling of shame and cause them to avoid asking for help. In a small study of 470 Austrian men aged 40 to 57, 32 men with symptoms of eating disorders had “significantly greater pathological manifestations on scales assessing eating behavior, dependence on physical activity. and satisfaction with body shape and weight  ”.
Ann Kerr believes that physicians have a role to play in diagnosing eating disorders and in the recovery of those affected. “It is clear that physicians can make a difference: they can provide information and raise awareness, in addition to providing appropriate care for patients with risk factors. Some may prefer to treat patients themselves using motivational interviewing or cognitive behavioral therapy, or to provide referral and follow-up. “
Eating disorders are not exclusive to young people; it is a mental illness that strikes regardless of age group, gender or race. If you or someone you know suffers from a disorder like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, know that we can help you.
Awareness Week eating disorders – From 1 st to February 7, 2017
On February 6, the Waterstone Clinic and the Waterstone Foundation will host a free, open-to-all information evening in Toronto as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017 (# SemTA2017). This evening, hosted by Dr. Blake Woodside, MSc, MD, FRCPC, will focus on new treatments for eating disorders.
For more information, click here or visit the Waterstone Clinic Events section . This event will be particularly relevant to families, teachers or anyone else with a particular interest in the treatment of eating disorders.
The Waterstone Clinic also offers a clinical webinar for healthcare professionals who want to learn more about the treatment of binge eating disorder. This activity will take place on February 7, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. ET, and will be
 “Thousands of middle-aged women suffering eating disorders in secret”, Times (London, United Kingdom) , January 17, 2017, p. 6. [ https://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=rpu_main&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA477779213&sid=summon&asid=451bf93c974cccd5eed943f9f ].
 Mangweth-Matzek, B., K. K. Kummer and H. G. Pope. (2016). “Eating disorder symptoms in middle-aged and older men”, International Journal of Eating Disorders, vol. 49, no.10 , p. 953-957. doi: 10.1002 / eat.22550.