The Truth about Eating Disorders in Men

While most of us believe that women are the only ones who have become a target of negative body image as well as eating disorders, the truth is far from it. Men too have been struggling with eating disorders to get that ideal body image that many men perceive. These eating disorders in Men can be purging, starving as well as binge eating that can be self harming for a man.

A lot of girls and women face the pressure to achieve that unrealistic body image for which they take the assistance of eating disorders. However, females are not the only ones who have been struggling with eating disorders. According to the *National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), approximately one out of three people experiencing an eating disorder is a male. 

The behaviour related to these eating disorders are either binge eating, purging or starving for weight loss. These are nearly as common in men as they are in women. According to a *study published in 2019 in the American Journal of Men’s Health, the prevalence of eating disorders in men is on the rise. Some of the eating disorders that men have been taking help of are known as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. 

However, due to the stigma and feeling of shame, men keep ignoring the symptoms that pop up and do not seek help or treatment. It is essential that you understand what an eating disorder is and how it can affect you if you are dealing with it.

Keeping this in mind, we decided to talk about eating disorders that men have been struggling with. Have a look below:

Eating Disorders in Men

Eating disorders in men are on the rise.

In today’s era, there is an ideal body image made up for men through social media as well as advertisements, that men believe they need to keep up with. They feel that they need to bulk up and be muscular rather than being lean or skinny. This thinking of men has led many of them to indulge in eating disorders, such as the binge eating disorder to gain weight and be bulky.

According to *NEDA, 10 million males will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime. However, it is a treatable mental and physical illness if man seeks help. A *study by the University of Melbourne in 2019 says that 22% of young men turn to dangerous means to bulk up muscle with disordered eating behaviours. But due to the stigma and stereotypes attached to eating disorders, many men struggling with it go undiagnosed and do not receive any treatment. 

Risk Factors

There are certain differences when it comes to eating disorders between men and women. While women are often diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, most men are diagnosed with binge eating as they try to gain weight and bulk up. Women with an eating disorder also have mood disorders but men struggling with an eating disorder may deal with anxiety or other psychotic disorders.

There are other gender specific issues in men that could lead them to an eating disorder, such as weight history, trauma, sexual abuse, gender orientation, depression, exercise and body image issues, chemical dependency, and media pressures, as well as body dissatisfaction and muscle dysmorphia. Men with eating disorders are also prone to excessive exercise, anxiety, depression, and substance disorders.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders in men can be treated.

According to *NEDA, eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality when it comes to mental disorders and it is higher in men just as it is for women. Also, the longer an eating disorder is not treated, the stronger treatment will be required for a man. When it comes to treating a man with an eating disorder, not every type of treatment will go for every man. Biological as well as cultural factors need to be taken into consideration. 

There are a variety of treatments that are available for a man. Some of these include:

Psychotherapy

A mental health professional will be able to make you understand and change your distorted thinking patterns using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Maudsley approach

This form of family therapy helps parents of teenagers with anorexia. Parents actively guide a child’s eating while they learn healthier habits.

Medications

Some men who are struggling have other underlying conditions as well, such as depression or anxiety. Taking antidepressants helps them improve these conditions. 

Nutrition Counselling

A registered dietitian with training in eating disorders can help improve eating habits and develop nutritious meal plans.

Men and boys dealing with anorexia nervosa usually display low levels of testosterone and vitamin D as well as have a high risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Testosterone supplementation is often recommended for them. 

Conclusion

In order to achieve that perfect masculine body image, men have been struggling with various eating disorders which indirectly or directly affect their bodies. This body image is too unrealistic to achieve, however, they do not understand the fact and believe that by binge eating or starving themselves, they will be able to get in shape. They need to understand that they are dealing with an illness and need to seek help.  

Footnote:

Approximately 1 out 3 people having an eating disorder are male: https://www.healthline.com/health/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-in-men

Study Published in American Journal of Men’s Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6560809/#bibr3-1557988319857424

10 million males will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males

Study by the University of Melbourne: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eat.23094

Eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality: https://www.psycom.net/eating-disorders-men

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