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Can Empty Nest Syndrome Increase Vulnerability to Eating Disorders?

Change and transition occur throughout the lifespan, with each transition presenting unique challenges that may cause one to be at increased risk for the development or reemergence of an eating disorder. In our younger years, transitions such as adolescence, moving, and going away to college, can be the culprits. During mid life parents are faced with numerous age related personal, professional and familial changes, including sending their children away for college or other independent pursuits.

While sending the children away to pursue adulthood can be a time of joy and freedom, it can also bring about an internal crisis states Dr. Deborah Russo, who warns that, “A new or reemerging eating disorder, depression, loss of purpose and fears and overwhelming anxieties are common symptoms. Many moms [and dads] are often embarrassed that they are struggling and keep it under wraps for too long hoping the problems of low mood and sadness would subside.”

In her article, “Filling the Empty Nest: Eating Disorders and Moms Launching Children,” Dr. Russo offers readers information, insight and helpful tips in relation to this often overlooked topic. Below we share key points from Dr. Russo’s article, as well as a link to the full story on Eating Disorder Hope’s website.


  • What is Empty Nest Syndrome – A non-clinical, lay term used to describe the feelings of sadness, loneliness and loss that parents often struggle with when children leave home to enter adulthood.
  • Co-Occurring Mid Life Challenges – Empty nest syndrome can be amplified by co-occurring mid-life challenges such as menopause, hormonal changes, physical aging, career concerns, unresolved marital issues, and coping with aging/dying parents.
  • Signs to Seek Help – Signs that it’s time to seek help include unrelenting sadness, depression, fatigue, tearfulness, and loneliness/isolation. A continued void that leads to feeling empty, lacking purpose, or unmotivated to resume regular life activities are also indicators of a serious issue.

Read the full story here, including coping tips for empty nesters.

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