WOMEN as old as 64 are struggling with anorexia due to poor body image after giving birth or during the menopause, it has been revealed.
Experts warn that parents are having a drastic influence on their children because of eating disorders and abuse of their bodies.
Suzanne Horgan, founder of the Eating Disorder Resource Centre of Ireland, said that she has seen mothers of 64 with anorexia as well as children as young as five.
"It's going across a broader spectrum of ages. It's happening among women who are heading into menopause and who are after having babies," she said.
"Eating disorders are definitely on the increase. There's been a huge surge. We have seven and eight-year-olds with anorexia and bulimia. When their mothers are doing it, they think it must be okay."
Around 200,000 people suffer from eating disorders in Ireland, but Ms Horgan estimates that there are many more who haven't come forward, or don't know they have an eating disorder.
"Society is putting so much pressure on people to look good no matter what, and after birth or menopause, the shape isn't ideal," she said.
Ms Horgan has called on parents to be responsible about the way they view themselves and their relationship with food, since their children will pick up on any negative behaviour.
"Parents have to look at their body, food and weight issues and have an outlook that's as positive as possible," she stressed.
The biggest issue among adults is binge eating disorder, according to Ms Horgan.
The incidence of eating disorders among males is also on the increase, with two males suffering from an illness for every ten females.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week runs until February 27, and Ireland's first private residential treatment centre -- Lois Bridges in Sutton, Dublin 13 -- is officially launching to coincide with the event.