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Health Information No Age Limit: Eating Disorders

When we think of the stereotypical person with an eating disorder, we tend to picture a teenage girl. While that is one group that is affected by this condition, there's no age limit or gender bias. Woman and men in their 30s and 40s -- even 70s or 80s -- can be affected. It could be your sister, grandfather or one of your parents.

In fact, since the focus has been on young women with eating disorders, someone from a different age group or gender with an eating disorder may easily go unnoticed. This person may experience the same body image issues, guilt and shame that go with the disease, but it may go unrecognized by friends and families, and thus go without help for months or years.

Common eating disorders:
 

  • Anorexia nervosa - Often characterized by a distorted body image. Person feels that he or she is "too fat," regardless of his or her actual size and weight. People with anorexia nervosa avoid eating or diet and exercises excessively. Some sufferers are older adults who don't take in enough nutrition.
  • Bulimia - Often characterized by binge eating followed by purging by vomiting or using laxatives.
  • Binge or out-of-control overeating.

While anorexia is the disorder that tends to come to mind first when we think of eating disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder. It affects about 3 percent of all adults in the United States.

What to look for:
 

  • For anorexia:
    • Fasting or going without food
    • Excessive dieting
    • Excessive exercising
    • Excessive use of laxatives to lose weight
    • Overly concerned with food, calories, weight or body image.
  • For bulimia:
    • Binge eating (see symptoms below) followed by:
      • Self-induced vomiting to lose weight
      • Use of laxatives to lose weight
      • Excessive exercising to lose weight
    • Overly concerned with food, calories, weight or body image.
  • For binge eating:
    • Eating much more quickly than usual during binge episodes.
    • Eating until uncomfortably full.
    • Eating large amounts of food even when not really hungry.
    • Eating alone because of embarrassment over the amount of food being eaten.
    • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating.

If you think you have an eating disorder, contact your physician and have a frank conversation about the issues that you're facing and discuss what type of help you can get. If you think a friend or loved one may have a problem encourage them to see a physician.


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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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No Age Limit: Eating Disorders

   
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