It’s no secret that countless myths about health and wellness circulate the Internet. Among these misconceptions is the idea that only women suffer from eating disorders.
In fact, new reports indicate that more men are seeking help for addictive dietary habits than ever before. According to research from Monarch Cove Treatment, 10 percent to 15 percent of people with anorexia nervosa are men – and the divide is narrowing.
As with women, men may also be diagnosed with other eating disorders such a bulimia nervosa and EDNOS. EDNOS, which stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, does not meet the criteria of anorexia or bulimia, but it has similarities to one or both of these disorders.
Male anorexia is characterized by an obsession with weight control and a distorted body image, with sufferers regarding themselves as overweight. Those with the disorder eat very small portions of food and only certain types, reducing their calorie intake to dangerous levels.
In men especially, exercise regimes, such as weight lifting and muscle toning, are usually ramped up excessively to burn calories. Some men take anabolic steroids to obtain the “perfect body.”
Meanwhile, males with bulimia nervosa tend to overeat or binge-eat and then purge themselves by inducing vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting or exercising excessively. Binge-eating is usually accompanied by feelings of disgust.
Although most eating disorders involve extreme weight loss, many lead to dramatic weight gain. Men with binge-eating disorders have recurring cycles of craving and excessive eating, usually in secret. This can lead to significant weight gain and even obesity.
What Causes Eating Disorders in Men?
Eating disorders are classified as mental illnesses and are not purely physical disorders. They are prompted and aggravated by underlying psychological, mental and emotional issues, such as anxiety and stress.
When most people imagine a person who suffers from an eating disorder, the image of an unhealthy, malnourished person usually comes to mind. However, successful athletes can suffer from this condition, as well. This is largely due to financial incentives to improve strength, muscular appearance and size.
Genetics can also contribute to eating disorders. People with anorexia often have other psychiatric or psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or drug addiction.
Long-Term Effects of Male Eating Disorders
Men with eating disorders can cause permanent damage to their bodies. Those with bulimia may suffer from electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related issues, which result from regular purging.
Treatment for Male Eating Disorders
Treatment for eating disorders in men should not focus solely on physical health. Programs are available that address mental and emotional well-being, which can set the foundation for long-term behavioral changes.
Male eating disorders should be treated differently than those that afflict women. The best way to identify the root cause of the illness is to work with specialized eating disorder treatment centers for men.
Unfortunately, males with eating disorders or other mental illnesses face the stigma of being seen as weak or vulnerable. If you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia, anorexia or a related illness, do not hesitate to seek the help of family, friends and a professional treatment center.