Many people attribute eating disorders to young women.
In magazine articles, self-help books and support groups, female teenagers and early twenty-somethings are offered a vast amount of treatment options and attention. Support for those outside of that age range and gender tends to be difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Here’s the thing. Eating disorders don’t discriminate against gender. Also, they’re not picky about the affected age-range either. What does this mean? Both men and women can and are impacted by eating disorders from the teen years through old age.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to facing an eating disorder later in your own life.
You’re Not Alone
As noted, the information offered in traditional venues simply doesn’t reach you. Thus, the topics that are readily available have little to do with your life. That’s enough to leave you feeling alone.
But you’re not alone. And you’re not the oddball out when it comes to eating disorders within your age group. Research shows that eating disorders affect more women over 50 than cancer!
Although this statistic reflects female food issues, that doesn’t exclude men from the unfortunate mark of an eating disorder. It is true that more older men than younger men are now faced with this unique challenge. The number of men affected has steadily risen since 2005.
What You’re Experiencing Is Far from Abnormal
Perhaps it’s the stereotype people like to peg on the older generation. You know the one that says wisdom and confidence come with age. It’s almost as if the older you get, the fewer problems you’re expected to face, and the easier life should become.
This way of thinking is not only untrue, but it’s completely misleading.
Maybe you do have things in life more together than you did in your twenties or even thirties. But life doesn’t generally present itself as being easy, no matter what stage you’re in.
Each age group has its unique set of challenges. One of those challenges later in life may be a struggle with an eating disorder. You don’t even have to have a negative history with food. In short, there is nothing abnormal or shameful about any of it.
Environmental Stressors are Often the Cause
One of the primary causes of an eating disorder later in life is most definitely environmental stressors. Think about the things you face now that you might not have faced twenty or thirty years ago.
Some of these stressors include divorce or marital issues, empty nest syndrome, illness, or even career problems. None of them are light loads. These environmental stressors can weigh heavy on you. Learning to cope with them might open doors to new ways of managing life.
Furthermore, today’s society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on looking a certain way later in life. Most people have a tendency to view aging negatively. Women often feel pressured to look young, and men can feel pressured to be classically distinguished. Sadly, society shoves both genders in the direction of the fountain of youth.
Find Support Within Your Age Group
Rather than gleaning from the teenage-focused media, find support aimed at people like you. It’s not necessary for you to read the same self-help books or magazine articles that the teenage girls are reading. Those topics usually don’t apply to you.
Also, sitting in a support group of twenty-somethings can be unnerving. Rather than supportive, you might feel more uncomfortable about your body. So don’t do it.
Eating disorders are not uncommon at any age. They’re very real possibilities to be faced later in life, so find the support you want and need within your own age group. Not only will this feel better, but you’ll also be more open to change.
Take the first step…
If you are ready to address your food and body image issues, as well as how they may be affecting you at this time in your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT