Eating Disorders In Men | Eating Disorders Victoria
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Eating disorders and males

Home ~ Eating disorders A-Z ~ Eating disorders and males

This page talks about the stigma associated with eating disorders in men and boys, often causing many of them not to seek help. It provides information on risk factors, treatment and recovery.

Can men get eating disorders?

Research indicates that up to 25% of people experiencing an eating disorder are male. However, many experts believe that the number could be much higher, as the stigma surrounding eat disorders in men prevent many from seeking help.

Many men go undiagnosed as having an eating disorder, either due to their own reluctance to seek help, stigma and a lack of awareness in the community, or because of a lack of understanding from health practitioners.

Men are more likely to experience binge eating disorder than other eating disorders, but the prevalence of men with anorexia or bulimia is also increasing. While eating disorders in females often starts in adolescent years, men tend to develop eating disorders at an older age. The average age of onset in males is 17–26 compared to 15–18 in females.1

RECOVERY STORIES

Young, professional, male — and living with an eating disorder

“I am a 30 year old male. I am professionally employed and degree qualified. I have also been suffering from anorexia for the past three years. During this time, it has taken a devastating toll on my physical and emotional health, and my professional and personal life. This is my story.”

Read Ben's story

Risk factors for men and boys

The general risk factors for eating disorders are the same for men and women. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, weight or body-related teasing or bullying are all known risk factors. Recent research also indicates a genetic link that may predispose people to the development of an eating disorder.

However, there are certain factors that present more or less of a risk to men and boys when it comes to eating disorders:

  • Dieting is a less common risk factor for men than it is for women.
  • Men whose job requires a particular body ‘look’ such as models, actors or entertainers may have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than the general population.
  • Male athletes are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, especially those in sports that require a particular physique, such as gymnasts, swimmers, jockeys, weightlifters, wrestlers and body builders. Athletes with eating disorders may partake in unhealthy and potentially dangerous activities such as restrictive dieting, extreme exercise regimes and/or anabolic steroid abuse.
  • Studies suggest that 15% of gay or bisexual men have struggled with eating disorders, and around 42% of men with an eating disorder identify as gay or bisexual.2

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Recovery and treatment

Recovery from an eating disorder is possible for everyone. Early intervention is the key to a successful recovery, so it is important to seek help as early as possible. The recovery journey is unique for everyone — for some, it can take only a few months and others may take many years.

Unfortunately many men with an eating disorder delay or avoid seeking help. This can be due to a number of reasons, for example: the stigma of having what many people regard incorrectly as a ‘female illness’, general resistance to seeking medical help, and an unwillingness to seem ‘weak’. In addition, eating disorders in men are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed by medical practitioners.

It is important to note that the treatment services available (such as psychotherapy, nutritional advice and support groups) are effective in treating both men and women, and the prospect of recovery is equally as possible.

 

References

1 B.J. Blinder, Anorexia in males, (2001), http://www.ltspeed.com/bjblinder/anmales.htm

2 Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Gay Men Have Higher Prevalence Of Eating Disorders, (2007), ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070413160923.htm

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