Eating Disorders Not Just for Teens

Eating Disorders Not Just for Teens

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill Reporting When people think about eating disorders they often envision young girls with problems. But it may surprise you to learn a growing number of anorexics and bulimics are women fifty years and older. Monica Robins looks into why it's happening, and can it be helped?

Eating Disorders Not Just for Teens

Fifty-five year old Kathy Allen is anorexic; it's not something she fought as a teenager.

Kathy Allen: "I always worried about my weight, but I still ate normally."

Kathy was fifty when she stopped eating, triggered by a doctor’s office comment.

Kathy Allen: "The nurse weighed me and she goes, 'Oh, I see you put a few pounds on since the last time you were here.' Suddenly it was like I was really appalled that I had."

It was only a couple of pounds, but enough to trigger something in Kathy.

Kathy Allen: "I went home and started treadmilling and by spring lost ten pounds. Then it just became a game, well if I could lose ten then I can lose 15."

Exercise became an obsession.

Kathy Allen: "I got up to like six miles a day. I finally reached the point where I was eating about five or six hundred calories a day."

Kathy's part of a growing number of older women with eating disorders.

Ann Hull, The Hull Institute: "Many of the women I see are successful, educated career women often times that managed life very very well who are now feeling again like they are a failure, like they're not good enough. Like they don't have a place in the world."

Ann Hull runs an eating disorder clinic for older women.

Ann Hull: "Often around menopause, but sometimes could be around once their kids are grown or hitting high school or they have other transition problems at that point in their lives."

Triggers can include losses in life, such as losing a parent, or parenting, youth, marriage, or career.

Kathy Allen: "Maybe suddenly I felt like my life had lost control or meaning and I wasn't really going where I wanted to go or doing what I wanted to do."

Ann Hull: "What they feel that they do have control over is what they eat and they try and maintain control over how they look but they pay a very high price for it."

Kathy Allen: "Through this whole thing, I developed osteoporosis and I fell and broke my hip."

She's hoping a new sense of control will help her heal. She's already been through five different clinics.

Kathy Allen, Anorexic: "I need to find what makes me happy and then hopefully that will help me get rid of this obsession."

Experts say signs to look for include depression and weight loss during menopause, which usually caused weight gain. As for prevention, doctors suggest women learn as much as they can about menopause symptoms and what to expect when it happens.

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