What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “eating disorders?” Maybe teenage girls who have been bullied about their body size or shape and are now starving themselves in order to be a smaller size? Perhaps adolescent boys who have been bullied about their weight, or who are trying to move up or down a weight class in a sport and now have disordered eating patterns?
You wouldn’t be wrong—adolescence is the demographic where eating disorders are most prevalent, but eating disorders are not limited to teenagers.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through what eating disorders look like in adults, how they develop if they manifest differently than in teenagers, as well as the best treatments.
What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening when left untreated. This type of mental health condition is characterized by chronic disturbances surrounding eating behaviors, negative thoughts and feelings toward food, weight, body image and self-concept.
The most common types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder and more. Even though these disorders are different, they each can pose a serious threat to a person’s health, including heart problems, hormone dysfunction, cognitive deterioration and more.
Due to the negative self-image nature of eating disorders, they have a significant impact on the overall well-being of an individual, often leading to various emotional and mental health issues.
Eating disorders do not discriminate and can affect males and females of all ages.
Eating disorders in adults
The majority of people who develop eating disorders are in adolescence and young adulthood, but there are more middle-aged and older adults struggling with this condition than people think.
Adults with eating disorders who are 30 years old and over often feel more shame or embarrassment around their disorder than young adults due to the stigmas surrounding age and eating disorders. When you reach a certain age, it’s assumed you just “grow out of” these issues.
Eating disorders are not a developmental challenge, though; they develop through the influence of parental figures, peers, diet culture, unrealistic beauty standards and more. Certain influences are more potent during adolescence, but that doesn’t mean these issues magically dissipate the moment you’re handed a diploma.
People who experienced chronic or traumatic experiences around food can carry an eating disorder with them for years, often without realizing they’re struggling with a disorder. The lack of social information and education about eating disorders in adults can lead to severe physical complications.
Many people fail to realize just how dangerous an eating disorder can be, not only to a person’s quality of health but their life as a whole as well. Over 10,000 people in the United States die every year as the direct result of an eating disorder, which is more than one death every hour.
If you’ve been denied eating disorder treatment before or are feeling nervous about reaching out, we understand. Contact us at any time to discuss your options.
Adult eating disorder treatment
Adult eating disorder treatment is structured very similarly to a treatment plan for anyone else. You’ll have an initial consultation with a physician or qualified advisor so they can accurately diagnose your eating disorder, recognize any additional physical or mental health conditions and create a treatment plan specifically for your needs.
Once the assessment is complete, it will be clear whether or not medical stabilization is necessary before starting psychological treatment. For individuals whose physical health has been severely compromised due to the disorder (such as malnutrition, dehydration, heart issues, etc.), they’ll receive medical intervention first.
Once your physical health has been stabilized, you’re ready to begin therapy. Depending on your situation, the exact type of therapy you receive will look a little different, but it all works towards the same goal: healing your mental and physical health from the disorder and establishing a strong, healthy relationship with your body and food moving forward.
If you think you or someone you love is struggling to have peace and freedom in their relationship with food, send us a message today to learn more about how you can begin healing.
Take the first step
Seeds of Hope is a premier eating disorder treatment center with locations throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. We offer recovery programs for anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder as well as other types of eating disorders.
We recognize that no two patients are alike, and your treatment plan will be fully customized to meet your unique needs to ensure you receive the highest level of care and support.
Whether you’re ready to enroll in one of our eating disorder recovery programs or looking for some additional resources and counseling, we’re here to help.
Send us a message or call us directly to speak with a qualified advisor today.