Living in the shadows of the stereotypes often depicted of eating disorders, men are grossly overlooked in their struggles and vulnerabilities to these deadly diseases. Traditionally viewed as problems that affect women, research is demonstrating otherwise as reflected in the statistics of males who suffer with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. While researchers has approximated that about 10 percent of individuals who are treated for eating disorders are males, newer studies are suggesting that this estimate is misleading and greatly underestimated, with numbers revealing that up to 40 percent of teens who have eating disorders are males .
What might account for these startling numbers? While men and women who have eating disorders may share related causes, such as low self-esteem, genetics, poor body image and perfectionism, the symptoms demonstrated are usually different. One noted difference is how men typically concentrate their attention on muscularity, as opposed to thinness, and weight is usually managed by extreme exercise, workouts, or bodybuilding regiments. Due to the scarcity of eating disorder studies on males and the few treatment programs tailored to the unique needs of this patient population, the data available about the prognosis for long-term recovery is minimal.
Eating disorders are deadly in nature and do not discriminate when it comes to its victim. Anyone can suffer with these diseases-male or female, young or old. The stereotypes that are too commonly portrayed about the eating disorder suffer are illegitimately skewed. Many men who may struggle with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorders may find it painfully isolating due to these typecasts-how difficult it must be to seek help or confide in someone about your struggles if you feel as though no one can relate to you or if you are the outcast of group.
The good news is that awareness and treatment for males who have eating disorders are dramatically increasing, as is the hope for recovery, wholeness, and wellness. Many new support groups, treatment programs and centers are understanding this need and focusing on ways to promote male-specific therapy and care for men seeking recovery from their eating disorders. Help for the journey in recovery is available for females ad males alike.
To read the recovery story of a man who battled with anorexia, please continue here.
References: J. I. Hudson, E. Hiripi, H. G. Pope & R. C. Kessler, “The Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Biological Psychiatry, Feb. 1, 2007, 61(3), 348-358. An NIMH science update Feb. 9, 2007 article, “Study Tracks Prevalence of Eating Disorders” can be viewed at www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2007/study-tracks-prevalence-of-eating-disorders.shtm