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Can Menopause Trigger Eating Disorders?

Menopause and Eating DisordersMenopause is a time of great change in a woman’s life, including lifestyle, hormonal and body changes. Many women have trouble dealing with these changes, and some will find different ways of coping. This may be the reason why women going through menopause may be at a greater risk for developing eating disorders than ever before thought.

While most people associate eating disorders with the young, Dr. Cynthia Bulik, founder for the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, indicates that menopause is a “major trigger for eating disorders in older women.” In fact, since the opening of the UNC Center in 2003, more than half the patients seeking treatment are over 30.

Eating Disorder Increases in Menopause

For many that suffer from eating disorders during menopause, the reasons for this are varied. Some may have always suffered from eating disorders on and off throughout their life. Others, they may have suffered when they were younger, and relapsed. Many women have trouble dealing with life changes, including loss of a spouse or being an empty-nester.

Menopause itself could be the reason. According to a recent study by researchers in New York, Boston and Austria, the reasons for the increase during menopause “may be both biological/hormonal and psychological”.

The study goes on to say the following:

Women who were currently experiencing menopause suffered from an eating disorder significantly more often than premenopausal women. Only 2% of premenopausal women reported an eating disorder diagnosis compared to 9% of perimenopausal women. Meanwhile, 5% of postmenopausal women reported an eating disorder (which wasn’t a statistically meaningful difference compared to perimenopausal women).

Hard to Identify

Family and friends often have trouble identifying eating disorders in menopausal women because both eating disorders and menopause cause mood swings. They may just associate eating too much or eating too little with a women trying to deal with the changes occurring to her body.

Learning to identify the signs of eating disorders may assist family and friends to distinguish between the “normal” changes associated with menopause and changes associated with having an eating disorder.

Rachel
Rachel Levi, LMFT, CEDS, F- IAEDPFounder/Clinical Director
Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment

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