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There are many misconceptions surrounding eating disorders, including what populations are vulnerable to developing this life-threatening illness. However, it is important to understand that eating disorders do not discriminate against ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or body type. Furthermore, the eating disorder profile has changed as of late, with a disturbing increase in patients over the age of 35.

In an April 2012 article in Women’s Health Magazine, “The Scary Rise in Adult Eating Disorders” by Jenny Deam, the following statistics are cited: At the Renfrew Center’s 11 treatment locations, the number of patients over the age of 35 has skyrocketed 42% in the past decade. Likewise, a couple of years ago at the ERC in Denver, an estimated 10% of patients were over the age of 25 and today 46% are over the age of 30.

At whatever age a person suffers from an eating disorder, the same physical impairments can be found including kidney failure, cardiac arrest, infertility, impaired brain function, and tooth decay. As explained by psychotherapist, Jessica LeRoy, “As women get older and their lives evolve, so do their stressors and triggers.” Some risk factors include women with extreme personalities, e.g. cutting out entire food groups because she hears some meat is high in fat, or women necessarily restricting gluten or foods they are allergic to which leads to more extreme restrictive behavior.

Well known eating disorder specialist, Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., FAED, authored Midlife Eating Disorders: Your Journey to Recovery, a book specifically addressing this issue. She explains that the adult sufferer of an eating disorder may have had an eating disorder as an adolescent, may be someone who has suffered with an eating disorder but never fully recovered, or may have experienced midlife triggers such as menopause, infidelity, divorce, death of a loved one, or unemployment. Others may experience eating disorder symptoms for the first time midlife.

Problems arise when physicians and other practitioners overlook a patient presenting with signs of an eating disorder. A great deal of medical professionals lack the appropriate training, and consequently eating disorders are simply not on their radar…especially for patients in midlife. Adult sufferers are often embarrassed to seek treatment or admit to their family and friends and they have an eating disorder, which makes the chance at recovery extremely difficult.

Similarly, in the insurance context, we find that insurance companies are less sympathetic to the older adult who suffers from an eating disorder, using words such as “chronic” and “longstanding” to deny coverage based on medical necessity. Continued efforts must be made to educate both health care providers and insurance providers, and bring further awareness to this growing population of eating disorder sufferers.

Recovering from an eating disorder can be a difficult and complicated journey. An insurance denial only makes matters worse. Kantor & Kantor, LLP represents an increasing number of young women and men suffering from life-threatening eating disorders and dual diagnosis conditions, whose health plans refuse to pay for required treatment on the grounds that such life-saving treatment is “not medically necessary,” only necessary at a lower level of care, or is limited by plan terms. If you have been denied coverage for the treatment of an eating disorder, WE CAN HELP.