Eating disorders in men

While many people think that women are the only people who experience eating disorders, the reality is that men do, as well. Around one in three people with an eating disorder is male, and both men and women exhibit similar eating disorder behaviors. 


But what are those behaviors, and what are the unique difficulties that men with eating disorders face? Today we’re going to answer those questions and many more.


Keep reading to learn all about eating disorders in men. 


Common eating disorder behaviors 

As mentioned, men and women suffering from eating disorders often experience specific behavioral and emotional signs. These can include:

  • An intense fear of weight gain
  • An extremely distorted self-image 
  • A fear of eating in public
  • Eating in secret 
  • Obsessive interest in tracking calories or nutrition 
  • Over-exercising 
  • Indifference to extreme weight loss
  • Strange food rituals
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Self-isolation after eating

Regardless of their gender, if someone in your life starts to experience any of these symptoms, they may be struggling with an eating disorder. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek professional help. 


The perfect body 

Whereas many women with eating disorders try and get as thin as possible, many men feel the need to become lean and muscular-looking. Most consider this to be the ideal body type—something which pop culture and the media has further perpetuated. 


This has led to the rise in muscle dysmorphia—a condition that more and more men are starting to experience. Individuals that suffer from it obsessively view their muscles as inadequate, leading them to spend hours at the gym, purchase supplements, and even turn to steroids. 


Today, around 25% of healthy-weight men view themselves as underweight, while most teenagers feel the need to bulk up. 


Social stigma 

While eating disorders affect more than ten million males in the United States alone, cultural biases often cause them to hesitate to seek treatment. 


Many people still believe that women are the only ones who experience eating disorders, leading many men to struggle to overcome the stigma associated with having one. They may find it emotionally taxing to have a condition that society has classified as “feminine” or “gay.”


Men are also less likely to seek psychological help of any sort, including for eating disorders. Although societal beliefs have evolved to an extent, many still see the need to seek professional help as a weakness or something reserved only for women. 


Treatment options 

Treatment options for men and women depend on the individual. As people develop eating disorders for different reasons, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Treatment plans need to be customized and personal. 


Unfortunately, men with eating disorders have a greater chance of dying than women. Because of that, early intervention is a must. 


Some evidence suggests that gender-based treatment plans may yield benefits. Most men with eating disorders feel further emasculated when surrounded by a room full of women. Because of that, all-male treatment environments may help avoid exacerbating those feelings. 


The takeaway  

Men with eating disorders face a unique set of challenges. If you suspect that someone in your life has one, don’t hesitate to encourage them to seek treatment


By offering them emotional support and a treatment plan that addresses the difficulties they face, they can overcome their eating disorder and get back to living a healthy life. 

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