Mens Eating Disorders Often Not Recognized
But even as he lost weight, she and her husband didnât realize the extent or true cause of the problem.
Like all the parents quoted in this story, she asked that her last name not be used to protect her sonâs privacy.
Ashley wasnât the only one who failed to identify what was happening. Her husband thought their son was having a growth spurt. A nutritionist called it âa phase.â The emergency room doctor she sought out when she didnât know where else to turn attributed his weight loss to being active and involved in sports. The ER doctor also said they needed to follow up with a pediatric oncologist to make sure Jordan didnât have cancer.
âHe basically told my son to add smoothies to his diet, and he jumped to cancer as a possibility,â Ashley says.
Ashley had to wait 3 weeks before a pediatric oncologist could see her son. But thankfully, he knew exactly what was going on. âHe pulled my husband and I aside and said, âYour son doesnât have cancer. He has an eating disorder.ââ
âI look back at pictures now and think, how did we miss it? But we were around him all the time, and we saw him eating. We didnât realize how much he was exercising though, and we just didnât notice the drastic change at first,â she says. âAn eating disorder didnât come to mind because itâs just not well-known in boys.â
I Saw A Lot Of Blogs About Females And Eating Disorders But Nothing Pointed To Males
Priyesh Vyas, 25, from Kent, looks back on the years he suffered with bulimia and explains how guilt and secrecy defined his battle with the condition
I was bulimic between the ages of 15 and 18. I had a relapse at 21 as well. It was probably down to more than one factor, but exam stress and social media pressure didnt help.
Men have more pressure in looking a certain way in this day and age. I cant pinpoint an exact time when it started it was a gradual thing. There would be times when Id be at school, eat lunch and purge it out in the toilets without anyone knowing.
Its such a secretive eating disorder. No one can physically see it because your weight fluctuates so much. People just cant tell. I would often have balanced meals not junk food or anything bad but Id feel guilty and purge it out. After eating a meal, Id feel like Id put on weight instantly that I wouldnt burn all the calories that Id just consumed.
I was a keen cricketer and there would be instances when Id be playing cricket and Id be bulimic in the middle of a match. There would be points where I would go the whole day without being bulimic and days when Id purge out all my meals thats the nature of the eating disorder.
No one knew until I was caught by a schoolteacher. The teacher had suspicions because I was going to the toilet so often. One time they found me after I had thrown up and told my parents. I felt embarrassed that my secret had suddenly been exposed.
What Are The Experts Seeing
Dr Sandeep Ranote is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, who has specialised in eating disorders for 15 years. She has no doubt she has seen a rise in referrals. “It is a real increase – we’re seeing more boys and men asking for medical assessment, support and treatment. I see that as a positive because while we know eating disorders are more common in women, in the past we have struggled particularly to get men to come forward.”
Is the rise due to better awareness or to more people suffering? “That’s impossible to tease out,” says Dr Ranote. “But my personal, intuitive opinion is that we are getting the message out there better, and while the people getting help are still the tip of the iceberg, it’s a bigger tip than it was.”
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Causes Of Male Eating Disorders
Several factors contribute to this phenomenon of eating disorders in men. Where the need to be physically perfect was once exclusively directed at girls, today, boys are receiving similar pressure. Look at action figures: they are absurdly muscular, especially in the chest and shoulders. This does impact boys, not unlike the way Barbie has traditionally influenced girls. Now, consider advertising, where the men depicted are the male equivalent of supermodels: lean and fit, or cut and buff.
Boys and men alike often make comparisons to these images and find themselves lacking. This is why males are now dieting and working out to an extreme, becoming vulnerable to anorexia, exercise bulimia, and muscle dysmorphia.
Males with eating disorders often have similar disordered behaviors as females. However, they face special societal pressures related to what it means to be masculine.
At puberty, boys feel pressure to be strong physically, often before their bodies can support the ideal body image they see in the media. To make matters worse, they lag developmentally behind girls at just the time they feel competitive with each other about being sexually attractive. Boys agonize over their looks like girls.
Causes & Risk Factors For Anorexia In Men
Risks associated with anorexia in men are serious The National Eating Disorders Association reports that the mortality rate in males with anorexia is greater than that of women. This risk is why it is critical to seek professional assistance as soon as an eating disorder is suspected or discovered.
Other risk factors for anorexia in men include:
- Stigma and cultural norms regarding anorexia being a female or gay disease
- Unrealistic ideals of what the male body should look like
- Sexual objectification of men in the media
- Onset of puberty
- Genetic predisposition 19
- 25% of men perceive themselves to be underweight16
- 90% of teenage boys exercise to become more muscular16
- Muscle dysmorphia
Many of the causes of male anorexia are similar to those in women. There is no single cause of anorexia in men.
Some of the most often reported triggers or life events that led to the development of eating disorders in male patients are:3
- Bullying or teasing about appearance during childhood
- Success or failure in sports
- Body dissatisfaction
- Increasing body weight and/or fat
- Media influence regarding ideal body shape that differs from their own
- Sexual issues related to appearance
- Appearance/weight prejudice in social or occupational situations
- To improve a relationship
- To avoid medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure
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Male Eating Disorder Awareness And Treatment
For example, in a survey of American women ages 25-45, highlighted by Psych Central, 65 percent had at least one behavioral issue involving food intake, and about 10 percent has symptoms consistent with an eating disorder.
Clearly, many women in this country struggle with issues involving body shape and size, but eating disorders can impact men, too. In fact, the National Eating Disorders Association suggests that about 10 million men struggle with some type of eating disorder at some point in life. And that number could be obscuring many men who have eating disorders, according to Ralph Carson, MD.
Males are not really researched, simply because its hard to get subjects to observe, he says. There is a very real stigma with eating disorders. Men think its for girls or that its gay.
When men do not enter treatment programs, they do not give researchers the chance to understand their stories, their risks, and their successes. So leaning on published statistics does not always tell the whole story of men with eating disorders. The data can be weak or just old, Dr. Carson says.
Since eating disorders are not typically associated with being male, and since there are not many published articles about how these disorders impact men, those males who do have eating disorders could be struggling in silence.
Screening For An Eating Disorder
If you spot some of the early warning signs of an eating disorder in your child, you might ask some screening questions to get more information. According to the National Eating Disorders Screening Program, these include:
- Are you terrified of being overweight?
- Have you gone on eating binges where you feel you may not be able to stop?
- Do you feel extremely guilty after eating?
- Do you vomit or have the impulse to vomit after meals?
- Do you feel that food controls your life?
The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests asking your child:
- What do you think you ought to weigh?
- What is the most you ever weighed? How tall were you then? When was that?
- What is the least you ever weighed in the past year? How tall were you then? When was that?
- Exercise: how much, how often, level of intensity? How stressed are you if you miss a workout?
Your child’s answers to these questions might help you to discover whether or not he or she has any of the more classic symptoms of anorexia or bulimia. You might also ask if any of your kids’ friends have an eating disorder. And don’t ignore the warning signs in younger children.
Keep in mind that 10% of people with eating disorders begin before age 10. So even if your 8 or 9-year-old is concerned about getting fat or talks about dieting, look for other red flags that he or she may have an eating disorder.
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How To Get Help For A Loved One
If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, encourage them to schedule an appointment with their primary care physician or locate an eating disorder specialist through their insurance carrier. When searching for specialists, a credential to seek out is a therapist who is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialists . These therapists are certified by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals due to their highly specialized training and years of experience in the field of eating disorders.
Online resources are also available through some of the following agencies:
Warning Signs Of Eating Disorders In Males
Warning signs of an eating disorder can be physical, psychological and behavioural. It is possible for someone living with an eating disorder to display a combination of symptoms, or no obvious symptoms. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours in males may present differently than females, particularly with muscularity-oriented disordered eating . However, the warning signs of an eating disorder can occur across all genders.
Sudden weight loss, gain or fluctuation In children and adolescents, unexplained decrease in growth curve of body mass index percentiles Inability to maintain normal body weight for age and height, failure to grow as expected Change in physical appearance Signs of vomiting such as swollen cheeks or jawline, calluses on knuckles or damaged teeth Fatigue Bloating, constipation, or the development of food intolerances Compromised immune system Fainting or dizziness Sensitivity to the cold
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Eating Disorders In General
I could not stoop to tie my shoes, so to speak, nor to attend to the little offices humanity requires without considerable pain and difficulty which only the corpulent can understand, I have been compelled to go downstairs slowly backward to save the jar of increased weight on the knee and ankle joints and have been obliged to puff and blow over every slight exertion, particularly that of going upstairs.
He then went on to describe his recommended diet which was high in fruit, vegetables and protein, while low in potatoes and alcohol. In 1959, Albert Stunkard, an obesity specialist in the USA , described the first case of an overeating pattern which he named the Binge Eating Syndrome, in one of his male patients who was struggling to lose weight. This eating disturbance was characterised by dietary chaos, loss of control with eating, cravings for forbidden foods, disinhibited eating, guilty, self deprecating feelings and an intense desire for weight loss. Latterly renamed Binge Eating Disorder, the focus of research attention has focused largely on female sufferers. Eating Disorders leapt into clinical significance in the late 1970s with the diagnosis of bulimia nervosa for people who binge eat and purge. However it was not until the 1980s that we knew more about demographic patterns, clinical features, psychiatric co-morbidity, and treatment outcomes for all sufferers of eating disorders, identifying their prevalence in males.
Men And Eating Disorders
Over the past three decades, there has been a change in the way men think about their bodies . Once thought to be a feminine issue, research is showing that millions of men in the United States are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies. Historically, issues with body image were associated with women but it is apparent that men experience body image issues related to their weight, body shape, and appearance, which can lead to detrimental physical and emotional consequences . Furthermore, body dissatisfaction in males has been associated with poor psychological adjustment, eating disorders, steroid use, exercise dependence as well as other health behaviors .
This site hopes to provide you with helpful information about psychological consequences of mens negative body image, will direct you to excellent resources and will reinforce the idea that there are many men who are suffering and are in need of assistance.
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How Common Are Male Eating Disorders
Women are definitely more likely than men to develop eating disorders – but they don’t have a monopoly. UK figures from 2007 suggest 1.6% of men have a problem relationship with food, and US figures put the number of boys and men with eating disorders at a million and rising. But are those figures an underestimate? And is the increase more to do with awareness and readiness to come forward than a real rise in the number of people affected?
13-Nov-17·4 mins read
Understanding Anorexia In Adult And Teenage Men
Anorexia often develops during the teenage years, when both boys and girls become vulnerable to the impact of cultural expectations. Teen boys look at their own bodies, and then compare their bodies to the ripped and toned bodies they see in movies and magazines. Often, these young people come up short, and they become determined to change their bodies to make them conform to the cultures definition of beauty.
In a poll of adolescents, cited by the National Eating Disorders Association , researchers found that 33 percent of males used unhealthy behaviors to control weight. These boys may have used exercise, diet changes, or both in order to drop pounds and make their bodies slimmer. Those behaviors could become yet more intense with time.
A teenager who intends to drop a few pounds with exercise could enter a sort of feedback loop. The pounds the boy drops make him feel better about himself, but he might remain convinced that he needs to lose yet more in order to reach his ultimate goal. But losing another pound or two does not seem effective, so the boy sets out to lose more. At this point, the boy is no longer trying to lose weight for health purposes. This is a boy that is consumed with losing weight, and his behaviors may qualify him for a diagnosis of anorexia.
But there are many behaviors associated with anorexia that people can and do spot in the men and boys they love. The National Eating Disorders Collaboration says those warning signs can include:
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Eating Disorders In Males
Eating disorders can affect people of any gender. There has been an under representation of males in eating disorder research , and research with males is almost exclusively with cisgender males and may not be inclusive of people who identify as trans or gender diverse.
It is estimated that one third of people reporting eating disorder behaviours in the community are male . Males account for approximately 20% of people with anorexia nervosa, 30% of people with bulimia nervosa, 43% of people with binge eating disorder, 55-77% of people with other specified feeding or eating disorder and 67% of people with of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder . The prevalence of males living with an eating disorder may be much higher and under-reporting may be related to underdiagnosis, misdiagnosis and the stigma associated with eating disorders .
Research on the perceived barriers towards help-seeking for people with eating disorders found that stigma and shame were most frequently identified as barriers for accessing treatment . Males may experience stigma associated with the common misconception that eating disorders are a female disorder which may present as a barrier to seeking and engaging in treatment .
Why Do Men Get Eating Disorders
Any man could develop an eating disorder. These issues do not discriminate based on factors like age, race, or sexual preference. However, prior research suggests that eating disorders are more common among men who identify as gay. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders , about 14 percent of men who identify as gay have bulimia, and over 20 percent have symptoms consistent with anorexia.
That high prevalence could be due, in part, to cultural pressures within this community of men. NEDA reports that men who identify as gay tend to weigh significantly less than men who identify as heterosexual, and they tend to idealize an underweight body type. These are men with a drive for thinness, and they might be willing to do almost anything to achieve that body shape, even if it involves an eating disorder.
This has been, for years, a standard explanation for eating disorders in men. But Dr. Carson says that research is shifting that belief.
Its clear that LGBTQ people are overrepresented in eating disorder literature in males, and that might be because thats who comes to seek treatment. They ask for help, so it appears that there are more of them with eating disorders, he says.
Of those eating disorders, BED is the most common among men. About 2 percent of men have BED, according to NEDA, and about 40 percent of all people who have BED are men. There are some eating disorders that seem to impact men more often than women.