Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulemia are commonly associated with teenage girls, but experts say these illnesses are becoming increasingly common amongst the middle-aged.

Eating disorder clinics such as the Renfrew Center (with locations throughout the US) are seeing a rise in the number of older patients. The New York Times quotes a number of statistics, including:

[The] Remuda Ranch Treatment Programs in Wickenburg, Ariz ... had a 400 percent increase in admissions of patients 40 and older since the late 1990s.

So, what's causing this rise? In some cases, middle-aged patients have suffered for years from an undiagnosed eating order. But, experts fear that the rise is also partly due to a culture that encourages an obsession with thinness.

It can be particularly difficult for older patients to seek help, since their eating disorder may have been present for decades, and many feel uncomfortable admitting to something they consider an adolescent problem. The New York Times suggests that many women find the courage to seek help because they don't want to pass on their eating disorder to their teenage children.

Eating disorders can include starving yourself, abusing laxatives, making yourself sick after eating, or exercising obsessively.

If you have an eating disorder, or suspect you may have, please see your doctor - whatever your age and gender.