Monday, April 15, 2024

Do Men Have Eating Disorders

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Prevalence Of Eating Disorders In Men Versus Women

How do I tell if I have an eating disorder?

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.

Eating Disorders In Men And Boys

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that are classified as a formal psychiatric condition and include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and more. Historically, and socially, these disorders are most commonly thought of as affecting women. But research shows not only that they happen regardless of gender, but also that they are likely underrepresented, under-diagnosed, and under-treated in men.

  • The National Eating Disorders Association says 10 million males will be affected in their lifetimes.
  • Men make up 15% of cases including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, recent research shows.
  • A recent study says 22% of young men turn to dangerous means to bulk up muscle with disordered eating behaviors.
  • Men with anorexia nervosa may face âharsher stigmatization from their peers or go undiagnosedâ because of the stereotype that anorexia nervosa is a âfemaleâ disorder, a recent study found.
  • A study this year highlights the stigma, shame, and isolation men often have that may impede and delay treatment.
  • And a study published in May found that risk assessment tools for eating disorders likely reinforce gender stereotypes by better reflecting female symptoms.

“Because of stigma and stereotypes, males often have a harder time being diagnosed and receiving treatment for an eating disorder,â says Lauren Smolar, director of programs at the National Eating Disorders Association .

Men And Eating Disorders

Despite a lack of representation in the media, eating disorders affect all people including men. Men represent about 25% of individuals with anorexia and bulimia and about 36% of those with binge eating disorder, and theyâre on the rise. Research shows the number of men being hospitalized for eating disorder-related causes increased by 53% from 1999 to 2009. Subclinical eating disordered behaviors are almost as common among men as women. Statistics may not be an accurate depiction because men tend to be more reluctant to seek help so these numbers may be higher.

Some may not recognize their symptoms as eating disorders and therefore donât get treatment. Many donât realize their relationship with food affects other areas of their life or that it has taken over their life. They may think having an eating disorder only looks like someone in a very thin body or that men donât get eating disorders. There is also stigma that surrounds eating disorders and mental health treatment making it difficult for people who are struggling to reach out for support.

Types of Eating Disorders

One type of eating disorder that appears to affect men and boys at higher rates than it affects others is called muscle dysmorphia. This is a pathological obsession with muscle building and extreme dieting. Follow this link to learn more about muscle dysmorphia.

Signs & Symptoms

Common Risks Factors

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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:

Who Is Affected By Eating Disorders

More men with eating disorders than we think!

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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Why Don’t Men Seek Help For Eating Disorders

In the last six years, men admitted to hospitals for eating disorders increased by 70%, but experts believe many more are being overlooked

The eating disorders charity Beat recognises that exact statistics are difficult to collate, but says that up to 25% of people affected by eating disorders are male. And according to NHS Digital, the number of adult men admitted to hospital with an eating disorder increased by 70% during the past six years equal to the increase among women.

Dr Sandeep Ranote, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, and member of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says: Theres still much more stigma around eating disorders in men. Its seen as something that is an acceptable illness for girls, but not for boys. We are seeing more boys, but not as many as we should.

Dr Darren Cutinha, a consultant psychiatrist at the child and adolescent eating disorders service at the Maudsley hospital, south London, believes there are two main issues with boys accessing treatment. First theyre less likely to want to come forward, he says. They may think people will question their masculinity, or not believe that men can get eating disorders. The second barrier is professionals not recognising that men can have an eating disorder.

They might want to exercise more, think about their nutrition and eat in a healthy way. But it can get out of hand and lead to anorexia if they have that predisposition.

Do You Have An Eating Disorder Quiz

This quiz is designed to help give you some idea about whether your concerns may be related to an eating disorder.

This online screening is not a diagnostic tool. Only a trained medical professional, like a doctor or mental health professional, can help you determine the next best steps for you.

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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.

Eating Disorders Do Affect Men And Women


Eating disorders are perceived to affect women and only women. This is a huge misconception as eating disorders do affect men and there are men who are struggling with eating disorders. It is about time to recognise that men, just as well as women, have concerns over their weight, body, shape and appearance.

Men with eating disorders are reluctant to admit to having an eating disorder which is stereotypically perceived to be a female disease or girls problems. Being a man with an eating disorder can be perceived to be less masculine and flawed. Men with eating disorders may feel stigmatised and ashamed of having a stereotypically perceived female disorder. The perceived stigma of being a man with an eating disorder makes it more difficult for a man to admit to having an eating disorder and in reaching out for help. Men with eating disorders have long been suffering in silence, in what has been named an invisible struggle.

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Some Signs Of Disordered Eating In Men In Women Are The Same

Aside from weight loss, there are other universal symptoms, says Lombardo. “When the body is malnourished, it can be more easily fatigued and less coordinated, resulting in an increased potential for falls or accidents,” she explains. “The immune system can be compromised, making it more likely for you to get sick or stay ill longer because you cannot fight off infections.” Disordered eating can also take a toll on mental and emotional health, Lombardo adds. The person may have trouble concentrating or learning, for example, or feel more irritable and stressed.

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.

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Men And Boys Get Eating Disorders Too

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:

What Are The Contributing Factors To Eating Disorder Development In Men

Eating Disorders: Treatment, Relapse, And Recovery

Male contributing factors to the development of an eating disorder seem to be similar to females.

These are a number of genetic and environmental factors that lead to anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Perhaps self esteem is a combination of both a personality style and environmental factors .

  • Though low self esteem is correlated with weight preoccupation in both men and women, it is less so in men7.

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The Size Of The Problem

NHS Digital data show a 70% increase in the number of UK men admitted to hospital for eating disorders in the last six years – up from 480 in 2010-11 to 818 in 2015-6. But these men are very much the tip of the iceberg. Out in the community, there are thousands of men coping with eating disorders at the less serious end of the spectrum under specialist help, and many more still hiding their problems from doctors.

Because of their reluctance to admit they have a problem, it’s impossible to know how many people have eating disorders. But the best estimates we have suggest men account for about 1 in 10 people with anorexia and bulimia, and perhaps as many as 1 in 4 with binge eating disorder.

Toledo Center Offers Hope For Adult And Adolescent Males

The challenges men face should be approached in a manner that addresses their distinct needs. At Toledo Center for Eating Disorders, we understand what is needed to men and adolescent boys find freedom from their eating disorder.

Our Adolescent Residential Program provides clients a safe and comfortable environment with 24-hour care. Adolescents ages 10-17 receive medical and psychiatric supervision, utilizing evidence-based interventions that help them process the underlying issues related to their eating disorder. As clients participate in individual, group, and family therapy, they learn meal planning, symptom reduction/elimination skills, and relapse prevention.

Our Adult Partial Hospitalization Program offers clients a comprehensive treatment program using evidence-based therapy balanced with activities aimed at enhancing mindfulness. PHP provides clients a structured environment with peer support 7 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Toledo Center for Eating Disorders provides each client an environment for restoring their physical and psychological health. We continuously recognize the progress each individual makes and help them transition to a life free from their eating disorder.

If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, call us today or complete our contact form for more information. We are here to help you understand that you are not alone, and that recovery is possible.

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