A common misconception people have about eating disorders is that it only affects women. However, this is completely untrue. The rise in eating disorders among men is alarming. Between 10–20% of people diagnosed with bulimia or anorexia are male. Because eating disorders are generally viewed as a female issue, there is a stigma that surrounds the men who are affected. This makes it very difficult for a man suffering with an eating disorder to seek help and often they suffer in silence.
Men are actually at a higher risk of dying from the eating disorder anorexia than women. The reason for this is because, generally speaking, men are diagnosed with this disorder much later than women are due to the assumption that anorexia is a female disease.
Studies have also shown that the eating disorder bulimia nervosa presents the highest number of male cases among athletes. This particularly affects athletes who are involved in sports which require a weight restriction or a certain physique, such as boxing and rowing.
Binge eating is also becoming more prevalent in men. This disorder involves excessive eating or bingeing on large quantities of usually unhealthy foods with lots of sugar. Binge eaters tend to feel ‘out of control’ around food. Very often they feel miserable and ashamed while bingeing, yet they lack the self-control to deal with their food cravings.
A more recently diagnosed illness, which is male dominated and acts as a trigger for eating disorders, is muscle dysmorphia. This is similar to anorexia, where the sufferers have a distorted view of their body image. In the case of muscle dysmorphia, the individual becomes obsessed with gaining the perfect masculine physique. It can involve abusing chemicals and steroids in order to achieve this ‘perfect’ body shape. Those with muscle dysmorphia often change their diets in an extreme way and this often morphs into an eating disorder.
Because male eating disorders are not as common as female eating disorders, it is vital to look for the common signs that indicate that an individual is developing an eating disorder. Some red flags may include:
- Skipping meals
- Withdrawing from social eating occasions
- Losing control around food
- Using the bathroom during or straight after meals
- Hiding wrappers or hiding food
- Eating large amounts in one sitting
- Eating to control emotions
These organisations help those who may be dealing with an eating disorder:
- UK — Beat Eating Disorders — www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk — Tel. 0808 801 0677
- Ireland — Bodywhys — www.bodywhys.ie — Tel. 01 2107906