Thankfully, in 2020, it is not revolutionary to assert that men can struggle with an eating disorder. Research, treatment, and advocacy efforts have caught onto this fact and are working to make up for lost time in order to more effectively treat this population, notably males and Binge Eating Disorder.
Unfortunately, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder among men . For every 3 women that struggle with BED, 2 men are also diagnosed, making this an important eating disorder to examine when considering men and disordered eating.
Contributing Factors for Males and Binge Eating Disorder
There are many factors that can contribute to the development of BED. For example, researchers believe that one reason individuals engage in binge eating behaviors is to compensate for restrictive dieting behaviors, and this can occur in both men and women.
A factor that is common but not required in BED diagnoses is a distorted body image, and many studies find this in both men and women. These studies note that “men with BED express greater concern overweight and body image than those without it .”
However, it is worth noting that how men view themselves, others, and the world differs from women. Therefore, factors that contribute to their disordered eating may be unique to this.
For example, while both men and women experience concern for body image, women look to achieve the “thin ideal.” In contrast, research indicates men are often looking to gain muscle, a feat that requires increased food intake. This can change their disordered eating beliefs and behaviors.
There are also several contributing factors to BED for both men and women that men are more susceptible to, such as depression and substance use.
Despite the differences mentioned above, research shows that the effectiveness of BED treatment is not as impacted by gender as one might think. Even so, it is important to be considerate of the unique experiences of men when treating their experience of BED.
Societal pressures to appear muscular and strong, maintain a stoic façade, act as breadwinner, and show little emotion are often unrealistic and unfair ideals placed on men. How this impacts their emotional experience of themselves and the world and the way this interacts with disordered eating, exercise, and body image are inextricably linked and must be addressed in treatment.
There is a certain insensitivity to men that struggle with disordered body image or eating. Part of this may result from the cultural ideal that men should “be strong.” There also seems to be a cultural idea of “poor you,” wherein people have less empathy for men due to their majority status and how this has impacted their reach and experience in society throughout history.
These ideals serve no one when it comes time to support a human in need. Men can be impacted by societal pressures to achieve a certain ideal, and these pressures can result in unsafe and dangerous behaviors.
If you feel you struggle with disordered eating or body image, you are not alone, you don’t have to go through this on your own, and there is help for you.
Resources Velazquez-Lopez, H. J., Arevalo, R. V., Mancilla-Diaz, J. M. (2018). Binge eating disorder in men: a review of the relevant variables in literature. Salud Mental, 41:2.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published February 6, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 6, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC