Senior Eating Disorders – What to Know

In today’s modern society, eating disorders are generally assumed to only be associated with younger generations; more specifically, teenagers. But they are increasingly becoming a bigger problem in older generations, and for many reasons. Here are some important things to know about the eating disorders present among the elderly.

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is classified as a psychological disorder that is characterized by disturbed or abnormal eating habits. And there are 3 main types of eating disorders present among the elderly: anorexia nervous, bulimia nervous, and binge-eating.

  • Anorexia Nervosa: An eating disorder in which an individual becomes obsessive about what they eat as well as how much they weigh
  • Bulimia Nervosa: An eating disorder in which an individual binges in order to avoid gaining weight
  • Binge Eating: An eating disorder in which an individual has the inability to control their consumption of large amounts of food

According to Dr. Holly Grishkat, PhD., women aged in their midlife or older are part of the largest group of new sufferers of eating disorders. Considering this, there must be reasons why society only correlates younger individuals with eating disorders. For example, older individuals with eating disorders may be less recognizable, leading to less support for them to seek treatment for their problem. On the other hand, younger individuals seeking help may be more supported since they have a longer future ahead of them. This is problematic because older individuals need treated for their eating disorders in order to prevent further complications with their health than already present.

Eating Disorders Among the Elderly

Among the older adults suffering from eating disorders, the majority of them have been dealing with an eating disorder since a younger age, and have either prevented to seek treatment throughout their life, or they went into remission and the eating disorder resurfaced. In 2006, a study conducted of nearly 1,000 elderly women found that 60% of the elderly individuals were dissatisfied with their bodies. In addition to this, the same study found that 80% of these 1,000 elderly female individuals were participating in some kind of weight control ritual. Furthermore, a literature review examined cases of eating disorder in people over the age of 50 years old and they found that 81% of the cases involved anorexia nervosa and 10% of the cases had bulimia nervosa. Lastly, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, around 20 million women as well as 10 million men in the United States have experienced some form of eating disorder at one point in their lives.

What Causes Senior Eating Disorders?

There are many factors that influence seniors to participate in different forms of eating disorders. For example, eating disorders are often associated with depression because of a loss of the desire to eat food, as well as loneliness. This loneliness can be caused by anywhere from an empty nest to divorce, widowhood, loss of parents, or loss of a child. In addition to this, some other factors that can trigger a senior to engage in an eating disorder are chronic illnesses, disabilities, medications, physical problems, and diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimers Disease. Medications can suppress an elderly individual’s appetite and desire for food, which may unintentionally lead to an eating disorder. Moreover, physical problems that may affect an elderly person’s eating habits are stomach problems, cardiac issues, gastrointestinal problems, and other complications.

Signs of Eating Disorders – What to Look Out For

There are plenty of symptoms that can identify that an eating disorder is a present problem in a senior citizen. These signs include:

  • Defensiveness or denial about an eating disorder
  • Onset or worsening osteoporosis
  • Heart or gastrointestinal problems
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Desire to eat alone rather than with family
  • Significant change in weight (loss or gain)
  • Changes in overall behavior
  • Large amount of laxatives
  • Dental damage

Overall, eating disorders that take place among the elderly generation can be difficult to identity and diagnose, and they can even be mentally damaging to the people attempting to help the senior citizens get rid of an eating disorder. But with the proper management as well as training, the eating disorder can be fixed and prevented in the future. A highly recommended solution for you if you know a senior citizen that suffers from an eating disorder of any kind would be to contact Maplewood of Sauk Praire facility because they have highly trained professionals that can help create hope during the dark times of eating disorders. There is hope and there is the right help out there.