Men and Eating Disorders: A Widely Ignored Subject

The vast majority of education about eating disorders is focused on women. Admittedly, women are twice as likely to develop an eating disorder due to oppressive societal standards. However, male eating disorders are just as dangerous and far less discussed.

Though men are less likely to develop one of these disorders, it is important to include men in the discussion. About 10 million men in America will develop an eating disorder each year. That’s plenty of risk, warranting an education for both men and women when it comes to these life-altering mental illnesses. Here are a few things to know about men and eating disorders.

Men Can Have Negative Self-Image

Though women receive the brunt of societal expectations, men also receive pressure to be strong, masculine, muscular, and emotionless. Being fit is commonly considered mandatory for male attractiveness. Since “thin” and “fit” are often incorrectly viewed as synonymous, men can easily fall prey to an eating disorder in an attempt to look more fit and, therefore, more attractive.

Men Suffer From Binge Eating Equally as Often as Women

Of course, not all eating disorders cause weight loss. Binge eating has been shown to be roughly as common in men as in women. This disorder falls under the category of “subclinical,” meaning it is not considered severe nor will it result in death.

Anorexia and bulimia are considered clinical as they can cause permanent damage and even death. In studies of subclinical disorders, men actually fall equal to women whereas clinical disorders are more common in women.

Though subclinical disorders such as binge eating are not technically dangerous, they can certainly cause a slew of health problems and often tell of a much deeper issue. Do not ignore binge eating if you see the signs in a loved one. Seek help.

Males Face Additional Stigma and Often Go Untreated

Eating disorders are often associated with women who want to lose weight. While women do face a stigma thanks to misconceptions and misinformation about eating disorders, men have great difficulty. Not only will others believe that they have done this to themselves and just need to stop, but they will also be ridiculed for behaving like a woman.

These two hardships men with eating disorders face can result in undiagnosed disorders and lack of treatment. With the potential fatality of some eating disorders, these stigmas are much more harmful than one might think.

Men are too often left out of the conversation on eating disorders. They have been viewed as a women’s problem and little more than an effort to lose weight when in reality, eating disorders can affect anyone and are typically the result of an underlying issue.

Of course, societal standards on appearance do not help the problem nor does the lack of education the public has on eating disorders. If you notice a male loved one avoiding food, purging, or binge eating, do not shrug it off. With 10 million men a year falling prey to eating disorders, it is not unlikely that your loved one needs help.

            Society has often grouped eating disorders with being a “female issue” but in reality, millions of boys and men suffer from these illnesses as well. Males who have been asked to come forward and admit to their disorder often do not even realize that they have one.

            While 20 million women in the most recent report  suffer from eating disorders, 10 million men are alongside them, battling these illnesses such as bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, exercise bulimia, etc. The female to male ratio at most universities is females to males. 3-1. Sexual preference of men does not dismiss the fact that 15% of gay men as well as 5% of heterosexual men suffer from undiagnosed or diagnosed eating disorders. The diseases that are just as common in males as in females include laxative abuse, binge eating, purging, or fasting for weight loss. Even though the mortality rate is the highest in both sexes for this mental illness, males are at a much higher risk of mortality than females. This double standard society has given men for being diagnosed with eating disorders of either being gay or facing a “girl problem,” will only prohibit the individual even further for wanting to seek appropriate recovery or confide in professionals specialized in eating disorders to get an accurate diagnosis.

            On the subject of males and body image, major importance is places on developing muscles and most have an unrealistic perspective of their size or body image in general. Over the course of past fifty years, society has become more and more bombarded with photoshopped, unrealistic images of physiques in the media, making most males feel inadequate in their current bodies. The term “biggerexia” has been tossed around the social media spectrum, affecting male body builders and figure competitors in general. This form of muscle dysmorphia mirrors the fact that over 25% of normal weight males feel underweight or “small” in muscular development, 90% of adolescent boys start exercising in the pursuit of bulking up, and 68% of college boys reporting their muscles are overall too small in size. These individuals are often found spending excessive amounts of time in the gym, spending excessive amounts of money on supplements to compensate for size, abnormal eating patterns, or unhealthy, recreational use of steroids.

            If you are a male reading this article or know of a male struggling with an eating disorder, do not be intimidated to reach out for help! All you need is help from our professionals experienced in male eating disorders, who can help you recognize the different dynamics found in males with eating disorders, the possibility of succumbing to an all-male environment treatment facility and the physical dangers of considering their disorder. Reach out to us by phone or email (whichever you are most comfortable with) and we can help you get the help you need to beat this and not feel shame or being any less of a man for experiencing this disorder! When you are ready, look through our directory and find and contact a counselor, anyone specialized in men with eating disorders a in general! We have provided a directory to help you receive the best possible care to reach a successful recovery. Just one phone call or email away can be the start of your improved health and show you how genderless this illness actually is! Call someone today 🙂