Rise in Eating Disorders in Middle-Aged Women – Term Paper

Healthcare of Many People

The healthcare of many people (middle-aged women) is in great danger. Although the introduction of sophisticated medical systems in health systems has helped to minimize most disorders, it is clear that the problem has not been fully addressed. For decades, the issue of eating disorders in middle-aged women was merely a stereotype. An individual who suffered from eating disorder had to be female, a high achiever, beautiful, affluent and most importantly young. Gradually, these beliefs are changing. According to Midlarsky & Nitzburg (2008), there is no age limit for eating disorders. More devastating is the fact that manifestation of eating disorders in middle-aged women was steadily rising. Definitively, an eating disorder is a psychological malfunction that may lead to disruption of an individuals normal eating trends (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008). This paper critically analyzes the rise of eating disorders in middle-aged women that recently has been hitting news headlines.

Mangweth-Matzek et al (2014) assert that the effects of eating disorders in the US are evenly spread. There has been a spread of the stereotype that white females are more infected by eating disorders than any other race. Mangweth-Matzek et al (2014) however argue that such stereotyping schemes are anchored around the fear for infection. It is important to note therefore that eating disorders are not specific to races, religions or specific cultures. In a more quantitative approach, Midlarsky & Nitzburg (2008) argue that eating disorders in women between the ages of forty five years to the age of sixty five years saw an increase of approximately 1% annually. Moreover, there is a belief that the rates at which the disorder spreads among middle-aged women is destined to increase as time elapses. Midlarsky & Nitzburg (2008) further predict that the arrival of the year 2030 will couple with an increase in eating disorder infections to approximately 3% annually.

Numerically, there are approximately three million women who are suffering from the eating disorders. Out of the three million, approximately 300000 are women in their middle age. Based on the belief that eating disorders are meant for younger women, these figures are devastating. Between the year 2001 and 2010, the number of middle- aged women who have been diagnosed with the vice have increased by almost 42%. The figures reveal that by 2030, a lot of women in their middle-age will be more affected by the eating disorders than even the teenagers (Mangweth-Matzek et al 2014).

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Bulimia and Anorexia

Bulimia and anorexia (types of eating disorders) are eligible to causing serious mental illness. In some cases, the conditions even lead to the demise of the victims. Midlarsky & Nitzburg (2008) warn that a lot of seriousness should be taken when dealing with cases that pertain to eating disorders. Before, people thought of historical loss of individual control to be the cause of eating disorders. This was due to the fact that the most affected demography was girls who were in the adolescent. To the adolescent, food deprivation was a means of subconsciously inserting control to individuals who had lost self-control. With the emergence of the illness on the middle- income and middle-aged women, the views about the illness must have gradually changed (Patrick & Stahl, 2009).

The severity of eating disorder illness can be deadly. Self- induces starvation may have massive effects on some parts of the body or even the whole body depending on the defense mechanisms of an individuals body. Advanced stages of eating disorders damage the functioning of the heart which may lead to conditions such as heart attacks or high blood pressure. The cognitive or neurological function of the brain may as well be tampered with in extreme cases of eating disorders. This is due to the eminent damage that the condition may lead the brains fat store into (Patrick & Stahl, 2009). During starvation, for instance, the brain automatically depletes its stored fats. Continuity of the condition leads to starvation of the brain and eventual death. Other organs that can severely be infected by this disease are the bones whose marrows are depleted as well as ravaging of the mouth and throat tissues (Ostrzyzek, 2003). The question then is; what could be the cause of increase in the number of infections on middle-aged women?

Eating disorders in middle-aged women emanate from three scenarios (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008). The first group of women with the disorder is those who have had it since their youth. This group of patients is mostly introverts in nature (Cosford & Arnold, 1992). With their unwillingness to share their happiness and problems, such women are capable of hiding their illness from everybody for long periods. It is also believed that eating disorders at adolescent or youth are a little normal. As such, most people keep it to themselves. During that age bracket as well, people are occupied by a lot of activities bearing the energy that they have and so the manifestation of eating disorders are easily invisible to other people.

Psychological Strength

The second group of the patients entails those who suffered from the disorder in their youth, got cured and are experiencing a relapse. Basically, eating disorders are anchored around somebodys psychological strength. There are individuals who cure completely from some sicknesses and would not reverse their conditions. There is however a group of people whose lives go round in circles. This group of people defines their future from their past. It is this second group that easily get relapse of diseases. Experts assert that it is very difficult to deal with the relapse cases than any other set of cases (Cosford & Arnold, 1992).

The third group of the patients is rare to come by, but they still exist. It is the group of people who contacted the illness in the late stages of their development- mostly in middle age. Experts attribute the rarity of this group to the maturity that they manifest. It is believed that by middle age, a lot of women are mature enough, have a considerable quantity of self -esteem and understand so well how to deal with their problems (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008). The issues at this stage emanate from the constant changes that environment bring to people. As the world move forward, technology advances, competition increases and people are finding the best techniques through which to fit in the systems. It is these problems of fitting in the contexts that are said to impact negatively on the middle-aged women. Emergence or relapse of eating disorders can be subject to a number of triggers in middle aged women (Mangweth-Matzek et al, 2013).

Aging is a huge causative factor of eating disorder. In their 40s and 50s, old age start to set in in women. Most women do not enjoy coming into reality with the fact that they are getting old. It is important to note that old age is characterized by loss of ones normal body shape, emergence of face wrinkles and many more. Consequent to the characteristics of old age, some women panic and eventually lose control of their own selves (Ostrzyzek, 2003). To regain their personality controls, such women revert to balancing their diets which is the origin of eating disorders.

Middle-Aged Women and Eating Disorders

To some extent, technology is to blame for the increase in the number of middle-aged women who get infected by eating disorders. A woman who is in her middle-age today definitely grew with the advancement in technology. As opposed to three decades ago, today, people access more information than what they used to access. Some of the pieces of information that people access today might be irrelevant to us; others might be relevant to an individuals life. The irrelevant information is what lead people to sicknesses that are uncalled for. Take for instance the media (Mangweth-Matzek et al, 2013).

Media today is so obsessed with female body shapes that some shapes are considered as unproductive to the economy. Petite bodied women are assumed to be beautiful and more attractive if compared to the fat ladies. This influence from the media leads to some women wanting to either eat a lot or avoid eating at all just to gain the desirable body shapes. To women who were not exposed to the influence of the media and the internet before, chances are high that they might get involved in eating trends that will affect their health (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008).

Family is an important part in the social life of any normal person. Almost every endeavor that an individual takes is anchored around the interests of the family. Bearing the magnitude of the influence that they might have on the life of an individual, family can as well play a huge role in instigating eating disorders in women. In middle age, most people lose their parents. A loss of a parent can be difficult to bear for those individuals who are not very strong mentally (Mangweth-Matzek et al 2014). The same happens to loss of children or other close family members.

Family Healthcare

Family dependents do not help either in preventing the inversion of eating disorders in middle-aged women. In their middle-age, women tend to gain a lot of dependents. The children and other members of the family look forward to the older members to provide for their living. This can have a lot of pressure on some people (Gupta & Schork, 1993). It should be remembered that middle-age is the epitome of success to most people in the middle class social gratification. In a case where an individual has not succeeded in their middle-age and the pressure instigated from the family keep mounting; such individual can resort to abnormal eating trends, thus the emergence of eating disorders (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008).

A lot more psychological factors emanate from the family that can be so detrimental to an individuals psychological setup. Middle-age is coupled with ills such as divorce or separation from ones family to start their own. Either way, the results can be so devastating. Divorce for instance is coupled with a lot of demands that an individual may decide to harm their lives. Moreover, middle-age is the same age bracket in which an individual lose the parental touch of their children. It is obvious that losing children at any age to anything can be so devastating. It is unfortunate how the loss of grips to the family happens mostly to the middle-age bracket (Gupta & Schork, 1993).

There is no age group that has more problems with coping skill deficits than the middle-age. The increasing exposures to the lives of other people only lead to more pressures to cope with skill deficits. There are various skills that an individual needs in order to cope with some situations. Behaviors like purging, restricting, excessive exercise and bingeing develop in middle-aged women who are in the need to fight trauma, depression, stress, emotional pain, low self-esteem, conflict and anxiety (Ostrzyzek, 2003). To the middle-aged, they might lack more constructive coping skills and resort eating disorders. At the start, eating disorders can be effective and might relieve an individual of some of the problems. In the long run however, the results can be deadly. Gupta & Schork, (1993) attribute the application of unworthy coping skills in middle-aged women to the huge number of problems that they experience almost at once. Resorting to extreme measures can be inevitable to such women.

Eating Trends, Metabolism, Etc.

There is a universal agreement that there are genetic involvements in eating disorders in middle-aged women (Midlarsky & Nitzburg, 2008). Genes are responsible for almost all the activities a human takes. Eating trends and motivators such as metabolism, mood, appetite, response to pleasure and food intake are all dependent on the composition of the genes of an individual (Lewis & Cachelin, 2001). These characteristics are passed from parents to their offspring.

In some negative cases, the manifestations occur in the host at their early age of development. To other people, the manifestations take longer and may wait till an individual reaches their middle age before they start taking a toll on them. Middle-age in women is coupled with other biological factors such as the offset of menopause which may cause great hormonal imbalance in an individual. To deal with the problems caused by the new compositions of their genes, most people resort to new eating approaches. The biological causes of eating disorders in middle-aged women are still debatable. It is however beyond no doubt that alteration of hormonal functions at the beginning of old-age may highly influence an individuals perceptions to everything; food inclusive (Lewis & Cachelin, 2001).

Moreover, middle-aged women experience temperament more than other age groups. It is scientifically believed the genetic causes of eating disorders are individually inflicted. That is, as some people can find it almost impossible to deal with the demands of their genes, others can deal with such vagaries (Tiggemann, 2004). Temperament however tend to cut across all the genetic compositions. The difference only emerges on the mental strengths of different individuals. The most common aspects of temperament that are common with middle-aged women are such as: obsessive thinking.

Successful Women Think a Lot

Women in their middle age tend to think a lot. The obsessive thinking in these women is mostly attached to the need to succeed or the sheer acceptance of failure. At middle age, it is almost impossible for anybody to dig out success out of themselves. This can lead to obsessive thinking. Successful women always think on how to better their success. The circle always continues in success. There are women who tend to be perfectionists in their middle age with the arrival of wealth. It is a common belief that money can lead an individual to some things that they would not otherwise attain without money. The problem emanates when money cannot solve all the problems (Tiggemann, 2004).

Temperament in middle-age does not end with perfectionism and obsessive thinking, there are biological and psychological factors involved that can be just as destructive. Anorexia nervosa is common cause of eating disorder in middle age that instigates unwarranted persistence and rigidity in women (Tiggemann, 2004). At its extreme points, anorexia nervosa may lead to impulsivity of the nerves that can easily lead to bulimia nervosa which basically is an advanced stage of eating disorder. These biological characteristics are manifest in women who enjoy a lot of food with more cholesterol which have increased in consumption in the recent decades (Mangweth-Matzek et al, 2013).

The continuing exposure to a lot of information and deterioration of privacy also causes disorientation in the behavior of people. In middle age, people show the need for privacy than ever. Technology is however continuing to deprive people of the much needed privacy. Consequently, people react by hypersensitivity, impulsivity and sensitivity to harm avoidance (Mangweth-Matzek et al, 2013). A continuity of these ills of technology may only lead to escalating rates of eating disorders in middle-age.

The rate at which eating disorders spread in middle-age women is alarming. It is frightening how stereotypes and ignorance still play a part in medics trying to avoid these devastating characteristics. As is evidenced, eating disorders in middle-aged women are instigated and fuelled by a range of factors: interpersonal, social, behavioral, psychological, emotional and biological factors. Curbing the influence of eating disorders in middle-aged women, therefore, needs a more holistic approach as compared to the concentric approaches that are applied today in toning down the invasion of the menace.

Importance of Health

Health is something important for a given nation, and the entire globe for that matter. This means that it would be necessary that a proper method for financing healthcare should be formulated towards ensuring there is a proper health structure for the entire world. This will ensure that the middle aged women are provided with the best care to avoid the menace. As such, a broad range of expertise and commitment is also necessary in improving global health among special groups. 

Eating disorder in adolescents and young adults


Essentially, an eating disorder infers to an illness that leads to severe disturbance to the normal diet. This disease is ranked among the most leading causes of disability in human beings, especially in women. It frequently coexists with other illnesses like substance abuse, depression or anxiety disorders. An eating disorder is real and can be treated. It is often an ignored disorder, and most people do not recognize that they are suffering from it simply because they are ignorant about it. There is thus, a strong need to increasing awareness about eating disorder. It is in this regard that this paper seeks to look into an eating disorder in adolescents and young adults. In particular, it will examine why girls and women are more likely to suffer from eating disorders based on the articles by Nimh (2012) and Striegel-Moore and Bulik (2008). 

There are two main theories that best explain why women are more likely to suffer from eating disorder; the culture theory and the genetics/biology theory. 

Sociocultural factors: there are various social and cultural factors that intrigue is eating disorders in women including the pervasive media images that depict a narrowly defined conception of beauty which may turn out to be disturbing for some ladies and women. Striegel-Moore and Bulik argue that people furthest from what is perceived as an ideal beauty, special women of color are more likely to suffer poor body image, psychological effects of low self-esteem as well as eating disorders. 

Striegel-Moore and Bulik (2008) further state that the cultural concepts describe an exposure to the thin ideal that leads to dietary restraint and body dissatisfaction. In some women, self-control leads to overeating and congruently amplifying their body image thus intriguing further purging or restraint. Moreover, Nimh (2012) states that objectification of women physical outlook are valued mainly for their looks thus intriguing the need to pursue attractiveness making them do whatever they can to acquire that ideal body shape that presents them as attractive. Eating disorder in women can also be explained based on cultural climates whey they grow in such as social pressure to be slim through peer teasing, through media or admonishments to cut off some weight. 

Biological Factors

Biological factors: Striegel-Moore and Bulik (2008) claim that women and girls have diverse physiological responses to eating or starvation. There are women that when they increase their food intake, they are more likely to gain much weight while some when they starve a little lose significant weight. It makes them eat according to their natural body response to food resulting in an eating disorder. There is a lot of evidence that biological factors support the culture theory in explaining the eating disorders suffered by women. Biological factors have a lot in demanding the quantity of food that is taken in by the women. Those women that get fat easily when they consume junk food tend to eat less. It is the same for women who have to eat more to get fat (Anderson, 2017). Biologically, women undergo menstruation. This makes them lose a lot of blood and in turn, take in proteins o replace the lost blood. Women under this age, the adolescent age, mostly prefer to have a slim body that will enable them to fit in curvy clothes. This is a culture that most of the girls are adhering to. Women who are aged between 15 and 25 tend to suffer medical depression such as anxiety disorder, depression as well as substance abuse. When they start becoming fat, they start experiencing eating disorders that makes them have serious disturbances to each diet that they take, concern about their body weight or shape or severe distress. This is in line with the cultural theory where women try to conform to the patterns of the society. They are always in the check about their body weight and their shape. This affects their eating habit.

Environmental factors help in explaining the culture theory of eating disorder in women. Culture theory which shows how the world is dynamic and how women change to conform to the pattern can be seen in the environment that affects the women. The environmental stress can bring about the onset of eating disorder in women. Because women have different colors because of the different ethnical backgrounds, the process of acculturation can be regarded as one of the main cause of stress. Beauty has been associated with slimness. This is the trend in most of the surroundings and women try to conform to the pattern.


From the above three factors; sociological factors, environmental factors and biological factors, I concluded that cultural theory best explains why eating disorders are more prevalent in women. The culture theory indicates that the pervasive media images portray certain body shapes and size as the most ideal thus making women do everything they can to gain that figure including restraining in eating or overeating thus contributing to their eating disorder. I have realized that most women take foods that will assist them to quickly slim. Women that are fat miss some meals just to gain a good body shape.


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