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When someone thinks about an eating disorder the condition is most commonly associated with women and young girls. However, there are just as many men in the United States as there are women that suffer from some form of an eating disorder.
Although the statistics will vary because of the stigma men attach to the condition.  Most research surrounding eating disorders have been conducted on women, but approximately 10% of the 8 million suffering are men, which is both serious and startling.
 

According to Gear magazine, one in six people suffering from an eating disorder is a male, but because of the stigma which associates these disorders with being primarily found in females, many men never step forward to get the help so desperately needed.  The University of Iowa states that men with an eating disorder have been “ignored, neglected and dismissed,” men have frequently refused help and even when it is sought, most males feel too ashamed to admit it and will not be receptive to rehabilitation efforts.

Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are highlighted in both genders by the same traits which include; self starvation, perceiving the body as “fat” even when very thin and an obsessive-compulsive pattern of living.  Men do not technically think in terms of “fat” versus “thin,” as most women do, but see it as a matter of being “strong” versus “weak.”   Men suffering from an eating disorder see being fat as a personal weakness, non-masculine, gross and unattractive, which is very different from how women perceive themselves. 

Some experts contribute the increase of eating disorders among men as a direct result of the same intensive media pressure to be “perfect” that women must endure.  Most websites and educational information about eating disorders is geared towards women, which reaffirms just how much the disorders are attributed to females only.  In order to address the problem among males, researchers and scientists are going to have to work very hard to change the public perception to accept that males can get an eating disorder too.

In 1649, Richard Morton a London physician was the first person to ever report an eating disorder in a male.  While most eating disorders are commonly attributed to women, the fact that males also suffer is something that needs to be further studied and researched.  It is thought that because some physicians actually misdiagnose male eating disorders because of an inability to understand that the disorder can affect both genders.

How is a Male Eating Disorder Treated?

An eating disorder does not discriminate against a man or woman, both genders can suffer from these problems equally and the results can be devastating, and in some cases even fatal.  There are certain strategies and which can prevent a male from suffering from an eating disorder and part of helping the individual is to provide a male with the understanding that it can happen to anyone.  Once the stigma and embarrassment have been removed, a male will be more understanding and receptive to treatment.

The male must participate in a professional treatment program for eating disorders and learn about the warning signs.  There are certain athletic organizations or professions that require a weight restriction on males, which can lead to the development of an eating disorder.  One of the best ways to prevent a man from developing an eating disorder is to talk about the disorder, never emphasize body weight or size and provide the individual with a chance to work through the negative self-esteem which might be a big part of the problem.

Male eating disorders can range from anorexia to binge eating disorder, though there are no real reliable statistics on just how many men suffer from any particular disorder.  If the treatment world is ever going to be able to properly assess and treat a male eating disorder, doctors and psychologists must identify that men suffer from these conditions as well women and come up with effective treatment options geared toward the male gender.  It is thought by researchers that athletes and gay men are more likely to develop an eating disorder than an average male, it is because of an obsession with perfection that many men are driven to observe negative eating habits and try to control their body through starvation, purging and binging.

There are generally three levels of care when treating a man for an eating disorder, inpatient, residential and partial hospitalization.  Depending upon how serious the eating disorder might be, a man can benefit from any or all of these treatment options.  The first step for treating a male eating disorder is to make sure the medical and physical needs of the patient are being met.  Working with a professional treatment center which addresses male eating disorders will allow a male to uncover the reasons for an unhealthy body image and work through the issues with a skilled counselor.

A male eating disorder treatment program should help an individual identify and change errors in thinking and address any other obstacles the man might face when trying to recover.  A professional eating disorder treatment program should also allow for the family of the man to participate in counseling and therapy, which will help others form a better and more complete understanding about the mystery of male eating disorders.  There could also be group/individual therapy, experimental therapies, nutritional counseling, and recreational and motivational therapies as well.  Whatever the male needs to overcome an eating disorder is going to vary greatly from what a female needs, which is why the need for personalized treatment is very important to the outcome for many men.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 24th-March 1st

Each year, the National Eating Disorders Association highlights a week of awareness, February 24th through March 1st.  The focus of the week is designed to raise public awareness about eating disorders and to reach millions of people that might be suffering in silence from the problem.   By providing accurate and educational information to others, the foundation increases knowledge on a personal, local, national and international level.

Read More: Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating) Among Males Becoming Common

Overview

Once a male has been identified and diagnosed with an eating disorder, it is possible to help the individual heal.  Not admitting the situation and avoiding the problem does not do anything to make it go away, the only way to solve the issue is for a man to admit the disorder is out of control and find a treatment center which focuses on treating males.  With therapy, counseling, supportive services and a unique treatment program it is possible for a male to conquer an eating disorder and become a healthy person once again.

  • Photo by shutterstock.com
  • www.something-fishy.org/cultural/issuesformen.php
  • www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/eatingdisorders.html#disorder
  • www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/MalesPre.pdf
  • www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/nedawareness-week.php

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