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Males and Eating Disorders
By Brad Kennington, LPC
that one in six eating disorders occurs in men and adolescent boys. Some
predict that this number may be as high as 25-30%, with binge eating disorder
occurring almost equally in males and females. Despite the increase in reported male eating disorder
cases, many men
and boys continue to suffer in
silence because they believe that eating disorders are a "female problem."
Studies show that body image
issues are one of the strongest factors in predicting eating disorders in both
males and females. Men are now under the same pressures as women to achieve the
"perfect body." However, males and females have different body image concerns.
Females are more focused on body weight; males are more focused on body
shape, with the "lean, toned, thin" shape being the ideal for eating
Eating disordered behaviors often
begin with extreme dieting. In males, the eating disorder may also get its
start through fasting and excessive exercise. And, although eating disorders
look similar in both genders, males have different reasons for developing an
eating disorder. Females who develop an eating disorder feel
overweight. However, many males who develop an eating disorder were
actually overweight as children and were teased about it. Thus, the eating
disorder helps shield the male from additional pain.
Another gender-specific difference
involves athletic performance. Males are more likely than females to develop an
eating disorder to improve their performance at a particular sport or to avoid
weight gain after a sports-related injury. Also, athletes who participate in
sports which encourage weight restriction (e.g., gymnastics, wrestling,
swimming, running, rowing) are at a greater risk for developing an eating
disorder. And, unlike women, men are much more likely to develop an eating
disorder in an attempt to avoid the medical problems their parents faced (i.e.,
heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure).
It is not uncommon for other
problems to coexist with an eating disorder. The more common problems found in
eating disordered males are alcohol/substance abuse, intimacy and sexuality
issues, and shame.
Eating disorders do not discriminate when it comes to the medical and psychological harm they can inflict on a person. Males who struggle with an eating disorder need to receive treatment from a professional who is knowledgeable about these disorders and aware of the stigma and shame these men and boys experience. Eating disorders are less about food and weight and more about self-esteem, a lack of control over one's life, a search for identity, and a way to cope with strong negative feelings: issues that both males and females may find themselves facing. More resources.
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Copyright Austin Eating Disorder Specialists 2005.
AEDS does not give
medical advice or treatment and we are not a health care provider. It is
important to realize that the information that appears on the austineds.com
website is not meant as replacement for proper care from a doctor, therapists,
nutritionist, support group, etc. Information provided by the AEDS is not a
substitute for medical treatment or psychological care. It is vital that you
talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding
eating disorder symptoms and treatment.