TODAY   |  July 07, 2011

More adult women battling eating disorders

NBC’s chief medical expert Dr. Nancy Snyderman discusses why more and more women in their 30s, 40s – and even 50s – are seeking treatment for anorexia and bulimia.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we talk about anorexia and bulimia, we talk about teenage girls . but there's a surprising group struggling as well. middle aged women . here's chief medical editor dr. nancy schneider.

>> good morning, sit down.

>> carrie didn't expect to be here, in treatment for a eating disorder at the age of 41.

>> you don't fit in a pair o pants anymore, so you're a big fat cow. yet, here she is, after a desperate intervention.

>> my sister said, carrie , you are spiraling out of control.

>> what made you hear them?

>> i wanted to. i was ready. i'm 41 years old. and was just time. i was tired.

>> a cascade of traumatic events in mid life is a trigger for women with eating disorders in women over 30.

>> i didn't realize i still had a eating disorder .

>> a recently divorced mom of two and struggling small business owner, eating or not eating was the one thing she could control.

>> i was losing hair, my gums were bleeding, broken bones , lost the period for three years. i didn't care. what mattered was the scale.

>> the body you have now, do you like it?

>> i'm learned to.

>> learning in treatment three days a week in the treatment center.

>> i'm excited i'm getting my hunger cues back.

>> she designed a program specifically for women over 35 plus. after seeing an increase of 42% in patients that age.

>> they're more sensitive to these sorts of issues and more likely to ask a woman who's older what's going on with your eating or you look like you've lost weight or i'm worried about you. 51-year-old colleen tried to meet her mid life anorexia but she's her to decide if she needs to be hospitalized again.

>> i have a daughter who's older. she's 19. so there's a definite -- she's more aware. so that makes it hard.

>> the stakes are high.

>> the medical complications of eating disorders get more severe over time . and as they interface with the aging body, we have more to worry about as clinicians who are concerned about these folks.

>> experts say, it can be a lifelong journey back to health. and for carrie , it's one day at a time.

>> what do you want other women to know.

>> that recovery is possible and that it's so much better than living with the disease.

>> dr. nancy a carrie are joining us this morning. good morning.

>> hi.

>> carrie , your daughter called you on it?

>> my daughter called me on it. we were talking about it during the segment one time she looked at me and she said, mom, you have a eating disorder . i looked at her, i said you're 10 years old, how do you know what that is? and it hit me, i'm emulating it for her.

>> your love of her helped to change.

>> yes.

>> you also had a eating disorder when you were younger in school.

>> absolutely.

>> nancy , how often when we have the eating disorders whene're younger, do we have them when we're older.

>> you talk to someone -- in her 20s she battled this, she would say, i deal with it every day, i think about it every day. it's not something where one day, boom, you've taken the antibiotics and you're cured. it's in your brain and you have to push it back. i think the mid life issues, the divorce, losing a child, some trigger is about control. the heart of most eating disorders is this need to control and the rest of your world is chaotic.

>> what explains, then, knowing that why we've seen this steep increase?

>> look, i think we loathe our bodies. the three of us sit here prim and proper, all tucked in and what's considered proper attire that we might not like to wear in a typical day, but we do it because it's how we present ourselves and society expects it. when you're in the public eye, you raise the bar. when you're a beautiful young blond and you have a very suburban life style , you tell yourself you have to maintain a certain body.

>> when i got divorced, i started my own company, a singles company. here i'm coaching the singles clients, the women in the data base saying you're going to be dating now, you better look your best. i was thinking, oh, my gosh, i've got to hold up to that standard.

>> the irony of carrie starting that business as a woman with a eating disorder and put herself in a place where she had to look a certain way.

>> yeah.

>> it was a trap that she had.

>> i did.

>> what do you say to women listening nowho suspect they have eating disorders , maybe in denial.

>> i would say if you think you have a problem, get help. reach out to a friend, see a therapist, start somewhere. get help, recovery is possible. reach out and get help.

>> it is slow. i want middle aged women to understand that even if you've lived with the issues for the rest of your life, you don't want to die from this. dying from a eating disorder is a great possibility if you don't get help.

>> thank you.

>> the uso much.