Binge Eating Disorder in Elderly Adults

Elderly woman discussing binge eating disorder

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope binge eating disorder in elderly adults

When it comes to binge eating disorder in elderly adults, no one thinks that their grandparent will develop the disease. There are many unfortunate stereotypes and stigmas that are conjured about this psychiatric illness.

For example, it is often thought that binge eating disorder is nothing more than a lack of self-will when it comes to eating, or that a person who resorts to binge eating is simply over indulgent.

Other stereotypes involved often correlate with the age, gender, or sex of a person who may develop binge eating disorder. The reality is that binge eating disorder impacts countless of individuals, irrespective of age, gender, sex, socioeconomic status, and the like.

Binge Eating Disorder Among the Elderly

With eating disorders in general, it is often thought that these are issues that trouble the young, adolescent female, excluding the possibility or thought that these diseases plague the elderly as well. Elderly adults may be just as susceptible to developing an eating disorder like binge eating, and may be less likely to seek out appropriate help and treatment.

Recent research has uncovered the impact of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction among the older population, with rates of eating disorders among the elderly steadily increasing.  One study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders examined the clinical features of elderly individuals with binge eating disorder (BED) and found that the number of participants who met the criteria for BED was comparable to the rate seen among younger adults [1].  While participants reported being in good general medical health, BED appeared to be a subset of physically healthy elderly individuals [1].

Eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, may be under diagnosed among elderly individuals due to lack of awareness and education among primary care physicians treating this age group. Elderly individuals with eating disorders may also find increased barriers and access to treatment due to limited income and health insurance coverage.

Merely because of the fact that many people and professionals are not expecting an elderly person to present with an eating disorder, diagnosis and treatment of these psychiatric illnesses among older adults has become severely limited.  Elderly individuals may need to be further examined with psychiatric, medical, and metabolic profiles to assess if binge eating disorder might be present.

Seeking Out Professional Help

older woman concerned about her binge eating disorderIf you have a loved one in your life who is an elderly adult, and you suspect an eating disorder, like binge eating disorder, might be present, have a gentle talk in which you can express your concerns. Signs of binge eating disorder in elderly adults may include but are not limited to:

  • Eating rapidly during binge episodes
  • Hoarding Food
  • Lack of control when eating
  • Frequently eating alone
  • Hiding empty food containers
  • Continuing to eat even when full

Binge eating disorder is a serious psychiatric condition that warrants professional help and intervention. Learn more about binge eating disorder and how you can help support your loved one who may be struggling.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What do you think are some of the common misconceptions about binge eating disorder among the elderly?


[1]: Guerdjikova, Al, et. al; Binge eating disorder in elderly individuals.  Int J Eat Disorder. 2012 Nov;45(7):905-8. Epub 2012 May 11.  Accessed 15 Sept 2016.

Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating.

Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 6, 2016
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