Eating Disorders and Older Adults

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is celebrated every year to raise awareness and provide resources for those who are suffering or know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder.  Eating disorders affect close to 8% of people in the United States and they have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder. Here are some things you should know about eating disorders:

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious and life-threatening illnesses that affect eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are some of the most common eating disorders. Though they are often associated with teenagers, they can also affect older adults.

What causes eating disorders?

Researchers have found that eating disorders are caused by genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors. Eating disorders are commonly triggered by stress. Stressors for older adults can include significant life changes such as empty nest, retirement, loss of a loved one, illnesses, disabilities, aging, etc.

What are the signs and symptoms of eating disorders?

Those suffering from an eating disorder may experience a significant change in weight during a short period of time. They may also change their behavior and ask to eat alone or leave the room right after eating. They may use laxatives, diet pills, or diuretics. It is important to note that not everyone suffering from an eating disorder will display signs or experience symptoms.

How do eating disorders affect the body?

Eating disorders can have serious consequences including brittle hair and nails, dry and yellowish skin, low blood pressure, thinning of the bones, brain damage, organ failure, and even death.

How are eating disorders treated?

Eating disorder treatment options can include psychological and nutritional counseling as well as medical and psychiatric monitoring.

If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, talk to a healthcare professional or call the National Eating Disorders Association at (800) 931-2237 for support.