A New Path to Recovery

Until more research is done on effective treatment for midlife disorders, experts are generally defaulting to the same methods, like cognitive behavioral therapy, used with younger patients. But what may prove more beneficial are specialized, adult-only patient programs. Curtis credits a unique 30-and-over support group with helping her recover after nearly eight years in and out of treatment. "I was often living with girls so young I could have been their mother," she says. "I felt like I should have been helping them, but I couldn't even help myself. The 30-and-beyond track was brilliant because I was finally able to connect with women who understood what I was going through."

In the past few years, a handful of clinics across the country have expanded their services to reach those beyond the teenage years. The Renfrew Center, the largest network of eating disorder clinics in the country, added a midlife treatment track after noticing a 42 percent spike in patients over 35. A center in Denver offers recovery programs geared toward adults, and an inpatient program at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin separates adolescents, young women, and those 30 and older during treatment. "These efforts are extremely promising," says Bulik. "But we have to continue searching for alternate, more personalized solutions for a group of women who have been largely overlooked for too long."

In Janice Bremis's case, she still has trouble accepting that she needs help. "I always think I'm not sick enough," she admits. Though mealtimes continue to provoke anxiety, Bremis has made it her mission to help others, working as the executive director of the Eating Disorders Resource Center she cofounded in Silicon Valley. And she, in turn, is helped by stories like that of Joy Tapper, who, at 70, recovered from her 55-year battle with bulimia. "Anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder knows the shame and disgust you feel with yourself," says Tapper. "I thought I would never be healed, but I finally am. The most important thing I learned in the process is that it's never too late."

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay area.

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