Eating disorders are generally thought to be a teen problem. However, women in their 30s and older have been seeking treatment for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Those who developed these illnesses have carried it through into their later years and continue to struggle with its effects. They now have other problems to deal with in their life and turn to these destructive behaviors in order to feel a sense of control in their lives.

More and more of these women are seeking treatment due to a growing public awareness of eating disorders, social pressures to stay thin, and an aging generation of baby boomers. Treatment centers are finding a steady increase in those who are developing the disorders. One center showed that 9 percent of its total patients in 2003 were 38 and over. This year, about 35 percent of its total patients were over 38 years old.

These women can be placed into three groups. The first group are those who have had an eating disorder for years. There are also those who were in remission but had the condition resurface because of a stressful situation. The third group are those who simply developed an eating disorder late in life.

Those things that could drive a person to develop an eating disorder include work, divorce, stepchildren, and aging parents. The risk of developing an eating disorder can be based on several factors. One of these factors is biological. Some people may be genetically susceptible to developing illnesses such as anorexia. This is to say that genetics may create a tendency for perfectionism, sensitivity, and perseverance, three qualities that help an anorexic press on. Psychological factors may also play a part in the development of diseases in people. Those who have low self-esteem and an obsessive-compulsive personality may lead them to go to extremes to create an ideal body image. While it gets the most blame, sociocultural factors are also contributors to these illnesses but not as dominating of the cause as people are led to believe. Women in their 30s are also dealing with childbirth and a changing look. The Eating Disorders Institute is addressing this problem by opening a new facility that specifically treats older patients. It is set to open in 2009.

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