For years eating disorders have been perceived as a “female” disorder, but recent research suggest that as many as 25 percent of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are men (Harvard University). Overlooking this significant portion of people with eating disorders is not only dangerous but also unfair to the men who suffer in silence. Here is the truth about males and eating disorders and how to get help.
Facts about Males and Eating Disorders
* Men in certain professions and sports are more likely to developing eating disorders. Body builders, runners, wrestlers, gymnasts, rowers, jockeys, dancers and swimmers are particularly prone to eating disorders because they must maintain a certain weight to enhance their performance. This constant focus on diet, exercise and basing their value on how they look can lead to disordered eating and dangerous behaviors.
* Male eating disorders aren’t always about losing weight. In fact, many men develop eating disorders in an attempt to gain weight. Bodybuilding, for example, requires a highly restrictive diet and sometimes over-exercising to achieve muscle mass. This rigid attempt to control weight can easily cross the line into obsessive behaviors to attain physical perfection.
* The media is increasingly sending messages to men regarding diet and the ideal muscular look. Even plastic surgery options for men are increasing, such as pectoral and calf implants. This has contributed to an increased sense of low self-esteem among men.
* Studies show that men with eating disorders exhibit certain sexual attitudes that are different from men without eating disorders. For example, males with anorexia display a considerable amount of sexual anxiety. Men with anorexia often have low levels of sexual activity and are usually relieved to discover that low sex drive is a symptom of their disorder. Males with bulimia, however, tend to be more sexually active than men with anorexia.
* Studies show that men with anorexia see themselves, or are seen by others, as more feminine than other men, both in attitudes in behavior. This may be where the misconception that men with eating disorders must be gay. This cannot be further from the truth. While its true that homosexual men may be more at risk for developing an eating disorder because of the cultural pressures within the gay community to be thin, many straight men also have eating disorders. Heterosexual men are just as prone to low self-esteem and body image issues as homosexual men are. An obsession with one’s appearance does not make a person gay.
* It’s not uncommon for men suffering with an eating disorder to also suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, and/or a co-existing psychological illness. Studies show a strong link between male eating disorders and substance abuse, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-injury behavior, obsessive-compulsive behavior and borderline personality disorder.
Treatment for Males with Eating Disorders
Men face unique self-esteem and emotional issues that require specific treatment for an eating disorder. Luckily, treatment tailored to men exists. By finding a treatment facility dedicated to your specific needs, your chances of recovery will be very high.
At Casa Palmera, we understand the unique issues men with eating disorders face. We offer therapy groups and treatment that are specifically designed for men so that you can work on recovery in a safe environment surrounded by your peers. We also offer dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorders.
Let us help you return to physical and mental health. Call Casa Palmera today.