When it comes to anorexia, bulimia and other disorders, we tend to think of them as a female issue.
And while it’s true that girls and young women are more likely to suffer from eating disorders, men are not immune to these conditions. In fact, males make up as many as 10% of all reported eating disorders, with those numbers rising all the time. And since more and more boys and young men are experiencing the effects of these disorders, it’s time to pay closer attention to this phenomena.
Keep reading to learn more about eating disorders in men, including information on causes, symptoms and available treatment options.
Why Men Develop Eating Disorders
Young men develop eating disorders in much the same way as their female counterparts. A dissatisfaction with one’s appearance can lead to a host of psychological issues, some of which can result in the development of anorexia, bulimia and other disorders. Body dysmorphic disorder, for example, is an illness characterized by obsessive thoughts about one’s appearance, and is just as prevalent in men as it is in women.
Young men who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder typically have obsessive thoughts about their appearance, and may go to great lengths to control factors like caloric intake and exercise. In turn, this desire to control appearance can lead to the development of an eating disorder.
In addition to an obsession with appearance and perceived flaws, factors like low self-esteem, perfectionism, feelings of helplessness, and the inability to express or handle emotions can all contribute to the development of eating disorders in young men. Also, many young people with eating disorders feel pressured to look a certain way, which can result in an unhealthy obsession with food, exercise and overall body image.
Which Disorders are Most Common in Men?
Although anorexia and bulimia aren’t exclusive to females, a disorder known as binge-eating is most prevalent among males. Young men with binge-eating disorder eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time, and may also hoard food, eat in secret, and eat until they are uncomfortably full.
This illness can be quite severe, and, in some cases, even life-threatening. For example, in addition to obesity and depression, binge-eating can increase the risks associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
Treating Eating Disorders in Men
Eating disorder treatment for men can involve a number of methods and approaches, some of which include the following:
- Psychological counseling. Intensive psychotherapy is an essential component of effective treatment. During counseling sessions, patients will explore their relationship with food, and work toward building a healthier, more positive body image. Plus, counseling can help uncover underlying illnesses like depression and anxiety, which can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
- Nutritional counseling. Like psychological counseling, nutritional therapy is crucial to recovery. This form of treatment promotes healthy eating patterns, and teaches patients to determine the difference between actual hunger and “emotional eating.” Through nutritional therapy, patients learn how to create healthy, balanced meal plans, designed to enhance overall health and satisfy physical hunger.
- Group therapy. In addition to one-on-one therapies, eating disorder treatment can also include group counseling. Here, patients can discuss their issues with food and body image, as well as give and receive support from peers.
Eating disorders are no longer a gender-specific issue. Indeed, conditions like anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder can have disastrous effects on both males and females of all ages and types. Thankfully, though, with awareness and understanding, we can give male eating disorders the attention they deserve.
And with the information provided here, young men suffering from eating disorders can get the help they need in forming a healthy relationship with food, and enhancing overall health and quality of life.