The majority of people who made calls to Bodywhys, the eating disorders association of Ireland, in 2015 were aged 36 and over.
Furthermore, 46% of callers to the association reported living with their eating disorder for 10 years or more.
Overall, Bodywhys recorded a 10% increase in people using their support services and, with the advent of technology, saw a 48% rise in people reaching out for support via email.
The figures are revealed in the association’s 2015 annual report, published yesterday.
“I think people are more confident to speak out. It’s also easier to access information nowadays and you see that with our email support service,” said Harriet Parsons, psychotherapist and services manager for Bodywhys.
She said the report shows eating disorders do not discriminate on grounds of age.
“In 2015, there has been a 9% increase in people aged 36-55 and an 8% increase in people aged over 56 years of age,” she said. “This means that the majority of calls taken in 2015 concerned someone aged over 36 years old.
“This is yet more evidence to challenge the myth that an eating disorder is a ‘teenage issue’.”
Ms Parsons said she does not think the rise in age is simply due to the fact it took longer for certain people to seek help.
“I wouldn’t rule out that it is people who are developing an eating disorder at that age,” Ms Parsons told the Irish Examiner.
In terms of the gender profile of who sought support from Bodywhys, the psychotherapist said the figures do not reflect a real breakdown.
“In terms of males and females, around 10% of people with eating disorders who contact us are male and that’s consistent but people reckon it’s around 25% and with binge eating disorder it’s around 50/50 [between males and females],” said Ms Parsons.
She added that binge eating disorder is one of the most prevalent eating disorders in society but people are less likely to seek help for it.
“With binge eating disorder, there’s an issue around acceptance of it as an actual eating disorder,” said Ms Parsons. “This is despite the fact that it has its own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
“It’s often approached from a diet and exercise point of view but you would never take this approach with anorexia. People with binge eating disorder get caught up in the diet culture.
“Obesity in itself is a health issue. A portion of people who fall into the obese category of weight actually have a binge eating disorder and are already trapped in a cycle where a diet is a trigger, and dieting is part of that binge eating cycle.”
www.bodywhys.ie or 1800 902 406.
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