This is a true story. Names and some details have been changed to protect privacy. This story is shared with permission.
Annie knew something was wrong and suspected she may have an eating disorder. She laughed it off, thinking, “I’m in my 30s. That’s a thing that only happens to young college kids.” Time went on, and Annie realized she was not able to overcome her eating issues on her own. A close friend recommended treatment. Annie thought, “No way. I’ll be the old lady there. I’m a professional business woman. I’ll be this weird anomaly.” But the nagging voice inside her telling her it really was an issue and she really did need help could no longer be quieted. Annie called a local treatment center after doing some research and did a preliminary screening. The screener recommended she be admitted to treatment. Annie was stunned. She asked, “Do I really have an eating disorder? Aren’t those just for kids?” The person on the other end of the line had heard this before and was kind and gentle as she explained that, no, eating disorders are not only for kids. Anyone, of any age, any socioeconomic status, any gender, and any race can suffer from an eating disorder. Annie agreed to enter treatment.
On her admitting day, Annie was terrified. She was shaking and near tears. She was sure – absolutely sure – she was going to be the oldest there by decades. She gingerly walked through the door and surrendered her belongings. After completing all the paperwork she began being included in the program. She was shocked to see she was not the oldest. A diverse array of men and women were there getting treatment. Annie started to relax and joined them on the journey of recovery.
When many people think of eating disorders they think of a white, female, freshman in college who stops eating to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15” and then gets stuck. While that is the profile for some who struggle, that is far from the only face of those who struggle. Anyone, of any age, can struggle with an eating disorder. In fact, according the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 13% of women over the age of 50 engage in eating disorder behavior. Men account for about 1/3 of those diagnosed with an eating disorder. When it comes to prevalence in older adults, even the AARP has taken notice and wrote an article about it in 2014.
If you are a more mature adult and realize you may be struggling with either an eating disorder or have a disordered eating pattern that could become problematic, you may be reticent to seek treatment because you think the only people there will be white, college-age girls. As the story above illustrates, that is unlikely to be true. As someone in your 30s and beyond, you may also be concerned about how to manage your job and home. There are many types of programs out there – some are intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization, both of which can allow you to continue to work – and you can find one that will work for you. Don’t let your fear stand in the way of your recovery.
If you or someone you love are struggling with disordered eating patterns, I would be happy to see how I may be able to help. Call 919-891-0525 today for a free, 15-minute consultation. Appointments may be scheduled for my Wake Forest counseling office or online.