It is a common misconception that eating disorders only affect women. The reality is that eating disorders affect both men and women, boys and girls.
Historically, men affected by eating disorders have been under-diagnosed, under-recognised and under-treated. In fact, at present, there are no medical guidelines specifically for men experiencing eating disorders.
A belief that eating disorders are a ‘female problem/illness’ is part of the stigma faced by men. It may take some men months or years to acknowledge their experiences as being that of an eating disorder. This can delay help-seeking and lead to the illness becoming more entrenched.
Some may hide the issue from others due to a fear of a negative reaction – being laughed at, judged or misunderstood. Some men may not seek help until they reach crisis point or following a marked deterioration in health. Others may recognise the problem more gradually. Isolation amongst those affected by eating disorders is common.
When trying to understand and/or support a man with an eating disorder it can be helpful to be mindful that eating disorders can present in different ways in males and that there are certain risk factors that are more ‘male-oriented’ to be aware of. However, in terms of treatment and the recovery process, anyone experiencing an eating disorder needs help and support to embark on, and continue with, the journey of recovery. Men, like women, need emotional, informational and social support.
Issues for men
In recent years, extreme dieting and purging has increased amongst men. As well as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, men are affected by muscle dysmorphia and other muscle-related eating issues.
- Muscularity disordered attitudes and behaviours
- A focus on muscular leanness
- Sporadic binge episodes perceived to increase muscularity
- A drive to gain weight, in the form of muscularity
- Over-regulation of protein consumption
- Protein-centric binge episodes
- Depression and shame
- Excessive exercise to compensate for caloric intake
- A ‘runaway diet’, muscle dysmorphia
- Use of steroids and growth hormones