Eating Disorders in Men

There is a huge misconception that eating disorders only impact women. However, this illness can affect anyone, regardless of size, age, or gender. In fact, the National Eating Disorder Association says that approximately 1 in 3 people with an eating disorder are male.

Sadly, due to these misconceptions and fear of seeming ‘weak’ or ‘feminine’, men are much less likely to seek treatment, meaning they more often suffer in silence.

We need to start breaking down the barriers and stigma associated with mental illnesses like eating disorders so that everyone can access the help and support they deserve.

eating disorder

Societal norms

In the current era, slim, thin, and skinny figures are praised – both in men and women, meaning that all genders can struggle with negative body image whether or not they fit these ‘norms’.

Men struggle with body image in the same way as women but are much less likely to vocalize it to their peers. Self-worth is heavily attributed to body type in today’s world, and we need to debunk this idea before it’s too late.

The difference between men and women with eating disorders

If eating disorders affect both men and women, why do we not talk about them in this way? Unfortunately for men, there are several barriers to overcome and additional stigmas that need to be broken down.

To start with, anorexia nervosa treatment for men is usually more limited than for women. Co-ed treatment centers tend to be overcrowded, while other centers may only offer places to women. Even in co-ed facilities, the majority of patients are female, making it difficult for men to feel like they can relate in the same way. Rather than the treatment being a positive process, it can become isolating, with many male patients feeling misunderstood.

Another issue is that it is harder to diagnose eating disorders in men. Assessment for the illnesses uses language that is geared towards women, meaning some men may be incorrectly diagnosed and told they don’t ‘qualify’ for a disorder. Diagnosis needs to be assessed on much more than weight and physical appearance. In a similar vein, treatment needs to be completely tailored to the individual regardless of gender.

Understanding the signs in men

Eating disorders display themselves in a number of ways, and most of these signs are very similar in men and women. Men are often more obsessive about achieving a ‘masculine body’ which is typically praised by society and peers through the media, however. Understanding that the symptoms can be found in both men and women equally is the first step to making a more open environment in which men feel like they can seek help. As for men who think they might be suffering or for those that are concerned about a relative, awareness and acceptance is key to understanding the condition and how to seek professional help. While we all want to magically ‘fix’ any loved one that we see suffering, it is better to leave eating disorders to the specialists while offering emotional support along the road to recovery.

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