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When Eating Disorders Strike in Midlife

(New York Times) No one has precise statistics on who is affected by eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, often marked by severe weight loss, or binge eating, which can lead to obesity. But experts say that in the past 10 years they are treating an increasing number of women over 30 who are starving themselves, abusing laxatives, exercising to dangerous extremes and engaging in all of the self-destructive activities that had, for so long, been considered teenage behaviors.

The recent surge in older women at eating disorder clinics is not a reflection of failed treatment, experts say, but rather a signal that these disorders may crop up at any age. But while some diagnoses, like Ms. Hodgin’s, are not made until these women are in their 40s, they may have battled food issues for years…

Unlike teenagers, who often must be coerced into treatment, many older women come on their own accord. One of the greatest motivators is having a teenage daughter, because many parents start to worry that their child may mimic their behavior, said Craig Johnson, director of the Eating Disorders Program at Laureate Psychiatric Hospital in Tulsa.

Another reason that older women may be more likely to enter treatment is that after years of anorexia or bulimia, they finally realize that their coping strategies backfired. What they thought would bring happiness never did.

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