WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are typically thought to be diseases of young women and men. But researchers are finding that the personal demons that drive a young person to an eating disorder may linger into adulthood.
More and more middle-aged and older people are coming forward to receive treatment for eating problems that began in their youth and have been reignited by adult stress or personal crises.
"Some had actual eating disorders" when they were younger, and "others had aspects of an eating disorder but were never fully treated," said Dr. Ed Tyson, an eating disorders specialist in Austin, Texas. "Then something happens later in life that stresses them to a point where the eating disorder becomes engaged."
The Renfrew Center, which operates a number of eating disorder clinics in the United States, has seen a 42 percent increase in middle-aged female clients since 2001, said Holly Grishkat, senior director of clinical operations for the center's northeast region.
Unhealthy eating patterns adopted in adolescence or teen years often continue into adulthood, according to a University of Minnesota study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study, which followed 2,287 kids as they grew into young adults, found that more than half of the girls had unhealthy eating patterns that continued into their mid- to late 20s.
That was the case with Alison Smela, 49, who lives in the Chicago area. When she was 12, she was given a weight plan to follow over the summer because she was considered overweight. Smela said she went back to school thinner, and people noticed approvingly.
"I got all kinds of attention, and I liked that," she said. "I equated losing weight with gaining attention."
Controlling her eating also helped Smela feel better when things seemed too much to
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