Eating disorders no longer just a problem among teens

Psychologist says half of her clients are 35 or older

Dee Shore knows exactly what triggered her eating disorder. She was 42 and in a new job.

"I felt like my world was turned upside down. I had been promoted and it just wasn't a job that fit me," she said.

Shore coped by eating less.

"Some days it would be like 100 calories. I always ate. I ate every day, but it might be, you know, a handful of raisins or something like that," she said.

After she dropped more than 40 percent of her body weight, Shore's therapist told her to see a doctor for anorexia. However, when she did, her doctor dismissed it.

"He said 'You don't fit the picture. That happens to teenage girls,'" said Shore.

Teenage girls are not the only ones battling eating disorders. Women in their 30s, 40s and 50s are also developing anorexia or bulimia.  
Dr. Cynthia Bulik, a professor of eating disorders at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said half of her patients are over 35. 

She has written a book on the topic called "Midlife Eating Disorders."

"We need to destigmatize these disorders so people are comfortable coming into their provider," Bulik said.

Research shows that younger adults and middle-aged women face similar factors for developing eating disorders -- a tendency towards perfectionism and low self-esteem. 

Women in their 40s and 50s are also dealing with approaching menopause and aging anxiety. 

Triggers can include traumatic events, such as a loss of a parent or their children leaving home.

"We see a lot of divorce, unemployment, empty nest. Kids all leave the house and all of a sudden your identity changes completely," said Bulik.

The key to helping women with eating disorders is early detection, according to Bulik.

"If they do emerge in mid-life, the most important thing is getting in for an evaluation," she said.

In Shore's situation, her therapist told her to get help or she would have her committed.

While Shore got help, healing is a long process; eight years after voluntarily seeking treatment, she is still working on recovery.


"Some days I truly want to give up though, because it is, this is the most harrowing experience I've ever been through," said Shore. "I have to think about what I'm eating at the table and what I'm modeling for her."

Eating disorders can be potentially life-threatening, affecting someone's physical and emotional health.  Experts said anyone struggling with anorexia or bulimia needs professional help.
For more information on eating disorders, click here.