Can Men Fall Prey to Eating Disorders?

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Many women suffer from eating disorders so it is seen as a problem women experience more than men. This has caused a disconnect between what eating disorders look like in men while large numbers, in fact, do have eating disorders which may look different than those affecting women. Learn more about how men can fall prey to eating disorders.

The Problem

Anorexia and bulimia are two of the most widely known eating disorders which affect between 10 and 20 percent of men. Nearly 11 percent of eating disorder sufferers are male. Among men who are homosexual, rates of bulimia climb as high as 14 percent to over 20 percent. Nearly one-third of teen boys use unhealthy methods of controlling weight including smoking, fasting, skipping meals, vomiting or use of laxatives. Only one in 10 Americans seek support for an eating disorder which means the statistics likely underestimate the prevalence of eating disorders among men.

Eating Disorders and Men

Eating disorders which affect men are less common or virtually unheard of in women. Muscle dysmorphia is an example of an eating disorder often affecting many more men than women which includes ‘bulking up,’ or packing on muscle mass potentially with the help of steroids. A higher proportion of men are also thought to suffer from bulimia or binge eating disorder. Men who suffer may do so in larger than average numbers presenting difficulties in identification.

Risk Factors

Several known risk factors for eating disorders among men are known and can help physicians and family members or friends identify an individual who is struggling. Like women, eating disorders often are a coping mechanism for stress or ongoing emotional issues. Additional risk factors are also present including participation in a sport which requires a body size where individuals are pressured to be thin such as weightlifting or bodybuilding. Exposure to ideal body types in the media can fuel a need to look a certain way for men as well as women. Dieting is encouraged and applauded which is an important risk factor in the development of eating disorders.

Not Just Women

The lack of awareness, lower number of men suffering from eating disorders and stigma are keeping many men from seeking treatment. Recognition of symptoms can bring on depression and anxiety. Many doctors also lack training to provide an appropriate diagnosis, especially when confronted with atypical cases. In many cases, when men are treated, there will be only one male attendee in outpatient groups which can be very isolating.

Raising Awareness

As groups that support men with eating disorders grow, so too does the message that more male sufferers exist than previously thought. This also creates a rift in the isolation men may feel about struggling with eating disorders. Funding issues often prevent male-only treatment centers from being started which builds stigma and further marginalization. Raising awareness must continue which includes making changes to treatment protocol to best support male sufferers.

Hired Power supports men and women with addiction and struggles with body image. If you or someone you love is dealing with an eating disorder or addiction, please contact us to find out how we can help you on your journey to health and healing.