August 01, 2019

Eating disorders

Older adults aren't exempt

When you think of people with eating disorders, you likely picture teenage girls or young women who are struggling with body image. While these disorders are most common in adolescents and young adults, they can impact women and men of all ages, even into older adulthood.

Types of disorders

Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that impact heath, emotions and functional ability in important areas of life. The three most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa — This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight or shape. People with anorexia may excessively limit calories or use other methods to lose weight, such as excessive exercise or the use of laxatives or diet aids, and may reach an abnormally low body weight. Or, fear of weight gain may be supplemented by shame over calorie intake, which may be relieved by vomiting (purging) or use of laxatives.
  • Bulimia nervosa — With bulimia, people typically eat a large amount of food at one time (binge). Then, driven by shame, they try to rid themselves of the extra calories in an unhealthy way such as vomiting.
  • Binge-eating disorder — In this disorder, which is marked by impulsivity, people regularly eat too much and feel a lack of control over their eating. But unlike those with anorexia or bulimia, they don't try to compensate for this behavior. It's believed to be the...