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Can Guys Get Eating Disorders

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Development Of Eating Disorders In Males

Thanksgiving can trigger people struggling with eating disorders

The elements that contribute to the development of an eating disorder are complex, and involve a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Any person, at any stage of their life, is at risk of developing an eating disorder.

Some of the triggers and high-risk groups, presentations and communities that may put males at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder include:

Direct or perceived pressure to change appearance or weight Influence and pressure of the media and social media External and internal pressure to adhere to the thin ideal, muscularity ideal or fit ideal Belonging to LGBTQIA+ communities Experiencing body dissatisfaction, negative body image and/or distorted body image Fasting or restriction of food intake for any reason Medical conditions which impact eating, weight and shape Mental health conditions Engaging in competitive occupations, sports, performing arts and activities that emphasise body weight/shape requirements The childhood and adolescent developmental periods

How To Get Help For Male Anorexia

Anorexia can be a life-threatening condition so if you or a loved one is dealing with this or any other eating disorder, it is imperative that you seek out professional help. An initial assessment with either an eating disorder therapist or registered dietitian is a good starting point. These individuals are trained to recognize and diagnose all eating disorders.

They will make appropriate recommendations for additional providers if necessary. In the most severe cases, professionals may refer to treatment facilities or hospitals specializing in the care of those with anorexia including intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, or inpatient facilities.

Anorexia requires treatment from many professionals collaborating with one another to provide specialized care. There are varying levels of care available to treat those with anorexia depending upon the severity of the individuals condition. Individual therapists, dietitians and even treatment centers are available who have specialized experience in treating men with eating disorders.

Why We Need To Take Action Now

While the incidence of bulimia in women has stayed fairly constant over the years, male eating disorders have noticeably risen and a lot of research now suggests that the occurrence of bulimia in men has increased dramatically in the past ten years.

Because of this now more than ever we need to raise awareness and improve support services so men will feel empowered to come forward and seek the help they so desperately need and deserve.

Historically it was believed that about 10% of people with eating disorders were male, however recent figures estimate that the prevalence is actually around 33%. With the amount of people, especially men, who suffer on with their eating disorders in silence, it’s difficult to say if we’ll ever know the true figure.

Remember bulimia statistics often do not paint an accurate picture. We must bear in mind that they only include cases of bulimia where people have asked for or relieved support and in some cases statistics are only calculated based upon the number of people who receive inpatient treatment for their eating disorders.

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Hiding In Plain Sight

Unlike with girls, who often become alarmingly skinny and visibly unhealthy, eating disorders in boys are harder to recognize because often nothing looks wrong on the outside. Eating disorders in boys are also easier to hide under the guise of what is considered acceptable, even laudable, male behavior.

Exercising, even excessively, is socially valued in men, says Dr. Bunnell, who adds that overeating is also more socially condoned in men than in women. A group of 17-year-old boys eating multiple Big Macs, for example, might be considered amusing or even cool, he says. In fact, these behaviors may be masking an eating disorder, but we dont notice the psychological suffering piece.

Guys Get Eating Disorders And What To Look For

Weight loss and eating disorders: How dieting can lead to ...

How do you identify if someone you love is suffering from a possible eating disorder? Below we have listed some signs and symptoms to look for.

  • Men will usually exercise to tone and get fit versus women who will try to lose weight.
  • Men struggle with higher body dissatisfaction than non-eating disorder males.
  • There is a higher preoccupation with weight lifting, body building, or muscle toning.
  • Athletes who play sports that are focused on weight class and aesthetic ideals are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder due to higher focus on weight/muscle tone/strength.
  • Repeated injuries form over exercise usage.
  • Lowered testosterone levels.
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    Who Is Affected By Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders can affect people of any age, race, gender or sexual orientation. They are often diagnosed in teenagers and young adults, but many people are first diagnosed with an eating disorder in later adulthood. Sometimes the first signs and symptoms develop at a much younger age.

    I am currently 25 years old and I have had issues with my weight and my self-esteem since junior high. I was your typical, awkward preteen. Chubby, braces, glasses, acne and a sweet, yet painfully shy, personality. I was self-conscious about everything, including my weight. ~Sara

    Many changes occur in our bodies during adolescence. These changes can be very difficult for some youth. Sometimes, those who are dissatisfied with their bodies will turn to disordered eating. However, there are many risk factors for eating disorders, and not everyone who is unhappy with their body will develop an eating disorder.

    Most eating disorders are much more common in women and girls than in men and boys. Girls in their teens are most likely to develop an eating disorder, but boys and men are also affected. In fact, one in every four children diagnosed with anorexia nervosa is a boy. Bulimia nervosa is diagnosed more often in females, but similar numbers of males and females are diagnosed with binge-eating disorder. Males also have some specific risk factors, including:

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    When Male Eating Disorders Make The Headlines

    I remember the controversy a few years ago when UK deputy prime minister John Prescott courageously opened up about his struggles with bulimia. In many ways it was a heartbreaking debate to watch because most discussions were fuelled by misconceptions of eating disorders.

    Certain journalists had a field day coming up with jokes and poking fun at a very real and life threatening eating disorder, all because the man in question was overweight.

    Ive never confessed it before. Out of shame, I suppose, or embarrassment or just because its such a strange thing for someone like me to confess to. People normally associate with young women – anorexic girls, models trying to keep their weight down, or women in stressful situations, like Princess Diana.

    Never for one moment thinking that a man of my age and build could be suffering from bulimia nervosa, but thats what the consultant said I had.

    As painful as it undoubtedly was for John Prescott to talk about his bulimia back then, the debate that it opened up really was an important one because it opened the worlds eyes to the fact that men of all ages and sizes can suffer with bulimia just like women of all ages and sizes can and do suffer.

    When people in the public eye and celebrities with bulimia open up about their struggles, regardless of our own opinions of the media , its undeniable that it can help to spread awareness.

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    Certain Eating Disorder Behaviors Are Affecting Males At A Faster Rate Than Women

    There are twice as many women with eating disorders than men. But research suggests certain eating issues are becoming more common among males. In a study that compared data from surveys taken in 1998 and 2008, researchers found that purging and extreme dieting increased at a faster rate in men compared to women.

    Males Eating Disorders And Body Image

    Men Can Have Eating Disorders Too

    Guys get eating disorders too.

    While eating disorders are often portrayed as illnesses that just affect females, or as a lifestyle choice, this is far from reality. Guys get eating disorders too: in fact, evidence suggests eating disorders in people identifying as male are increasing. Eating disorders are a serious mental health issue and can result in serious physical issues too.

    The good news is that help is available. The first step is recognising the issue and seeking support. The earlier you get help, the shorter the recovery process. Our free and confidential Helpline is a useful first point of contact, where you can get information, referrals to specialists and counselling.

    So my attention turned to bulking up and putting on more muscle my behaviours were still being driven by ED and my negative body image. Dan

    40% of people experiencing Binge Eating Disorder are men

    Over one third of Australians that experience an eating disorder are men

    40% of people aged 11-17 experiencing disordered eating behaviours are male

    Presentation and behaviour in men

    Presentation can include
    • Obsession with fitness and body image
    • Fear of gaining weight
    • Restrictive diet and eliminating certain foods
    • Bingeing and purging
    • Anger when confronted about their exercise and disordered eating
    • Dissatisfaction, isolation and social avoidance
    • Muscle enhancing drug use
    • Smoking

    While everyones journey to recovery may look different, it helps to talk about it.

    Getting support

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    Why Does Anorexia Often Go Undiagnosed In Men

    Despite nearly 25% of all anorexia cases being male,7 men do tend to go untreated for lengthier periods of time than their female counterparts.

    There are many reasons for this including the following:

    • Bias by professionals leading to less likelihood of eating disorder diagnosis in males
    • Stigma associated with males seeking help for what has traditionally thought to be a female or gay male disorder
    • The disorder not being recognized by family members
    • The males not seeing their behaviors as problematic
    • Minimal attention to male eating disorder symptoms and predominantly female language in most eating disorder assessment measures
    • Most research and subsequent funding have historically excluded males from studies
    • Predominantly feminine branding of eating disorder treatment centers and exclusion of males in their milieus
    • Until recent changes in the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders , diagnostic criteria were gender based, such as amenorrhea, making it harder for males to be diagnosed

    Eating Disorder Facts: Young Adults Experiment

    By experimenting with certain kinds of dieting and weight loss behaviors, young people put themselves at risk to develop eating disorders. Eating disorder statistics show they don’t understand eating disorders and might attempt to lose weight by skipping meals, or by purging their food they may binge-eat and then use diet pills to try to lose the weight they’ve gained.

    More innocently, they may try to eat exclusively fat-free foods under the misconception this is the “healthy way ” despite eating disorder facts to the contrary. They may overexercise, believing if a little exercise is good, then a lot is better. They may simply engage in quirky eating habits that, in time, become habitual and extreme, or may read or see movies about eating disorders but lacking a true understanding of them, they accept eating disordered behaviors as “okay”.

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    Increase In Awareness Of Male Eating Disorders

    Overall, there is a general rise in the numbers of men who are suffering from eating disorders. However, it is questionable whether it is because truly there are more incidents of men suffering with eating disorders in more recent years or it is because of an increase in awareness in this area. Either way, there is a rise in the awareness of eating disorders in men as more men are coming forward in admitting to struggling with an eating disorder, seeking help for an ED and sharing their experiences. Also the media is increasingly addressing mens problems with eating disorders, for example, Binge eating among men steps out of the shadows The secret world of male anorexia Rise in men suffering from eating disorders . Charities are also working towards raising awareness in eating disorders and men, for example Men Get Eating Disorders Too, No Bodies Perfect, B-eat, SWEDA and SRSH, a few blogs e.g. Sleepless in Newcastle, Until eating disorders are no more and Facebook pages Binge Eating Disorder and Men.

    Even though eating disorders is a well researched area, it is mainly research conducted on women and not men. Recently there has been a shift as more research studies are published on the issue of men and eating disorders and this issue is receiving a more widely media coverage.

    Men And Boys Get Eating Disorders Too

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    Culturally, men are celebrated for what they can achieve and conquer, while women are valued for their appearance. But things are changing and we live in a highly visual culture with a complex and intrusive media that places importance on appearance for all genders and all ages. The message is clear. Being attractive is equivalent to being good. Failure to master the appearance leads to stigmatisation both of appearance and of character. The question is: do these messages impact on men in the same way as they do in females? Taking health orientation as a yardstick, it would seem that men are increasingly becoming sensitised to these messages. Gym memberships have exponentially increased. Men now ask for cosmetic surgery. They talk about diets, food plans and supplements among themselves and they are far more likely than they ever have been to go on a diet to control their weight. These changes mask some qualitative differences in the way men and women perceive and respond to their own bodies.

    Men do worry about their appearance but:

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    When Should Someone See A Professional For Male Anorexia

    Parents of young boys or adolescents should seek professional assistance from either a licensed therapist, registered dietitian or physician with eating disorder expertise if you notice that your child has stopped eating, they have lost a significant amount of weight, or if they have stopped growing. Any time a child or adolescent either loses or fails to make expected weight gains, it could be a sign of an eating disorder if combined with other symptoms.

    Additionally, if your child has less energy than normal, is getting sick more frequently than usual, is refusing to join the family at meal time, or is exercising more than is typical for him to do, a trip to see a professional is warranted. Other symptoms to be aware of are irritability, sleep disturbance, pale or dry skin, hair loss, increased dental issues, or more frequent injuries.

    Many of the same symptoms mentioned with children and adolescents are important to note in adult males as well. Weight changes and food refusal are the obvious signs to look for in anorexia. Additionally, if an adult male is experiencing physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, headaches, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, sleep disturbance, hair loss, increased dental issues, increased injuries after working out, depression, anxiety, or any other notable changes in their physical or mental health, it is important to seek out the professional assistance of a licensed therapist, dietitian, or physician with eating disorder expertise.

    Why We Need To Talk About Male* Eating Disorders

    *Individuals who identify as male

    As an athlete who had trouble recognizing her eating disorder, I can only imagine how tough it can be for men who struggle with eating disorders to identify what theyre going through and get the help they deserve. Molly Fennig, author of Starvation , shares more about male eating disorder misconceptions here.

    1. Theyre more prevalent than you think.

    Depending on the study, up to 40% of individuals with eating disorders are male.

    In fact, up to 19% of male athletes have an eating disorder . Unsurprisingly, sports that promote leanness, either through weight classes or increased efficiency have higher rates of eating disorders.

    2. Men are less likely to seek healthcare in general , nonetheless help for their eating disorders . Even when they do, its more likely to be from peers . Thus, raising awareness is crucial to ensure that men can get the help they need.

    3. Most male eating disorders arent societally recognized, making it even harder to get help. Some of this stems from more female-centric diagnostic criteria , research being done more on men . Moreover, these two issues exacerbate each other as diagnostic criteria is based on research, and most research is done on diagnostic categories.

    Also, while men can have more stereotypical eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, they also tend to have those that are less commonly recognized, both by society and providers.

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    Prevalence Of Eating Disorders In Men Versus Women

    Randy Fang

    How do men generally get eating disorders compared to women?

    It is no surprise that most mens ideal body is a large, muscular body. In contrast, women generally set their goals to achieve a thin, toned body. Social media impacts how individuals feel about their bodies as well. In a study observing social media use and body satisfaction, it was observed that higher social media usage tends to be paired with a lower body satisfaction . Low body satisfaction is also linked to higher rates of eating disorders. The cultural differences of ideal body types result in women developing more eating disorders. While men tend to consume more foods, women attempt to limit their calories, and both can be done so in very unhealthy ways .

    Aside from social media and other influences, eating disorders are more common in women than men because of brain differences. In a study using virtual reality, women who looked down and saw an obese or overly skinny virtual body experienced higher levels of emotions such as anger or fear . Women with anorexia also have different levels of chemicals in the brain . These differing levels of chemicals can cause overactive and repetitive behaviors that fuel the repetitive habits of eating disorders . Women are also more likely to experience negative emotions when discussing body image and eating disorders . These factors prove that eating disorders are not only a disease caused by social factors but are also influenced by individual factors.

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