Eating Disorders Are Not Just For The Young
When we talk about eating disorders, the focus is almost always put on young individuals, but we often forget about many other groups which struggle with these disorders. Eating disorders impact everyone from the young to the elderly, but when the disorders appear in older individuals it often goes unnoticed.
Many people even think eating disorders are limited entirely to younger individuals, but these types of disorders do not discriminate. Data shows eating disorders are being found more and more often in populations where it is typically overlooked such as males and the elderly, but there is evidence that countless others live with these disorders without ever being diagnosed because they were not a member of the more well-known population of younger women.
One issue making it hard to identify eating disorders in less-recognized populations such seniors is that these disorders present themselves in unique ways and come with their own problems exclusive to seniors. Seniors are affected by bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, and other eating disorders just like any other population, but they typically follow unique paths and are less likely to be brought on by the same factors which commonly contribute to eating disorders in younger populations.
Eating disorders in seniors are less likely to be brought on by societal pressures to look a certain way, and more likely to be related to depression, anxiety, loneliness, or extreme introversion issues. Individuals who have a history of physical or sexual abuse are also likely to experience eating disorders no matter their age when their history of abuse has not been properly addressed through counseling or therapy.
Unfortunately, while eating disorders in the elderly are often overlooked, they can be even more dangerous for seniors than for younger individuals with eating disorders. Without proper nutrition, nearly every system in the body struggles to continue functioning, which can lead to high blood pressure, spikes or drops in blood sugar, cognitive decline, exasperated osteoporosis, gastric problems, or even cardiac risks.
When these health issues go unaddressed, it can also lead to lost mobility, a reduced sense of independence, and death, but even when seniors seek medical help for these symptoms their eating disorder may go unnoticed and untreated.
Due to the combination of older bodies becoming more vulnerable and the underdiagnosis of eating disorders for seniors, older adults are also less likely to seek help for these condition. Other factors such as memory problems can decrease the likelihood of seeking support or assistance even further.
Without support, it is highly likely a senior with an eating disorder will go unrecognized and experience significantly poorer quality of life and increased health problems that affect every aspect of daily life.
Slowly, the medical community is recognizing that eating disorders are not limited to young women struggling with society’s ideal notions of beauty, but there is still a great deal of room for improvement and countless seniors with a severe mental and physical disorder will continue to be overlooked until awareness of the issue is expanded even further.