New Victims of Anorexia: Elementary Age Girls and 40 Somethings

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are on the rise, and doctors who treat them here in Connecticut are seeing a dangerous trend.

“Girls in grades one to three are on diets, restricting their eating, thinking they’re fat. Even some are binging and purging,” said psychiatrist Dr. Sarah Niego, medical director of Hartford Hospital Institute of Living’s Eating Disorders Program.

Niego believes some young girls feel self-conscious about their weight in part because they hear what she calls “fat talk,” which, unfortunately can be everywhere, she said.

“If they’re female, a lot of it is other females, so the teacher in school or someone in the grocery store, or mom or an older sister,” said Niego.

On the other end of the spectrum is the increasing number of women over 40 seeking treatment for eating disorders. Pam DeFelippo, 52, suffered from anorexia last year and lost 18 pounds.

“I simply developed a habit of not eating and as we know the brain, the body needs nutrients in order to function,” said DeFilippo, who weighed just 93 pounds when she arrived at the Institute of Living for an out-patient program.

DeFilippo is part of a growing number of women over 40 who suffer from eating disorders over two decades.

"The percentage of women admitted to inpatient eating disorder programs over the age of 50 has increased 119 percent,” Niego said.

She attributes that to the expression that “50 is the new 30” and the pressure that comes with that to continue to look youthful.

And, Niego said, stereotypes that eating disorders affect only wealthy white teens and women  are not true. She says eating disorders do not discriminate.

DeFilippo had success at the Institute of Living’s program, where patients are medically stabilized and possibly medicated, then put on a personalized food plan. They spend hours each day in individual and group therapy.

Contact information for the Institute of Living is available on its website. The National Eating Disorder Association is another place to turn to find help in your area.

Contact Us