When we think of eating disorders, we often picture young teenage girls. However, experts say there are a growing number of professional women and mothers battling eating disorders later in life.
Looking back, Dee Shore remembers what triggered her eating disorder at age 42.
"I felt like my world was turned upside down. I had been promoted and it just wasn’t a job that fit me,” said Shore.
She began to eat less to cope with the stress.
"Some days it would be like 100 calories. I always ate. I ate every day, but it might be, a handful of raisins or something like that," Shore said.
After dropping more than 40 percent of her body weight, her therapist told her to see a doctor for anorexia, but when she did, he dismissed it.
"He said I don’t fit the picture [and] that happens to teenage girls," Shore explained.
Dr. Cynthia Bulik said eating disorders can strike anyone at any time. Half of her patients are over the age of 35.
"We need to de-stigmatize these disorders so people are comfortable coming into their provider,” said Cynthia Bulik, PhD, UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.
“We're looking at about five percent of the population with full blown, threshold eating disorders," said Bulik, author of "Midlife Eating Disorders."
Research shows that younger adults and middle-aged women face similar factors for developing an eating disorder.
Both groups show a tendency towards perfectionism and low self-esteem.
However, women in their 40s and 50s are also dealing with approaching menopause and aging anxiety.
Triggers are often tied to traumatic events, such as a loss of a parent or their children leaving home.
"We see a lot of divorce, unemployment, and empty nest," Dr. Bulik explained. "Kids all leave the house and all of a sudden your identity changes completely."
She said early detection is critical.
"If they do emerge in midlife, the most important thing is getting in for an evaluation," Bulik said.
Shore’s therapist gave her an ultimatum: to get help or she will have her committed.
Eight years after voluntarily seeking treatment, she is still working on recovery.
"Some days I truly want to give up, because this is the most harrowing experience I’ve ever been through," Shore said.
It's a struggle she’s working to overcome for herself and her daughter.
"I have to think about what I’m eating at the table and what I’m modeling for her, “ Shore explained.
Even though there are an estimated 30 million people with eating disorders, research is largely underfunded.
The average research spent per individual with Alzheimer's disease is $88.
Compare that to 93 cents for those with eating disorders, even though 6 times more people are affected by eating disorders.