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Issues for Men with Eating Disorders

The most common element surrounding ALL Eating Disorders, including Eating Disorders in Males, is the inherent presence of a low self esteem

It is estimated that 8 million people in the United States are suffering from an Eating Disorder, and of that number 10% are men. Personally, I am guessing that the percentage suffering that are men is far higher, but because of the old fashioned idea that this illness strikes only women, few men come forward to find the help they deserve.

Right from its inception, this whole site has always been aimed at addressing Eating Disorders in everyone, but there are some issues that are specific to the male eating disorder community. As with all sufferers there has always been, and still is, an element of shame in being someone with an Eating Disorder ("I'm disgusting", "look at what I do to myself", "people will think I'm crazy", etc.), but for men and the old misconception that they cannot suffer from an Eating Disorder, the shame they face is often worse.

According to Arnold Andersen and the research he did for his book Males with Eating Disorders, while women who develop Eating Disorders feel fat before the onset of their disordered eating behaviors, typically they are near average weight. Men are more typically overweight medically before the development of the disorder. In addition, men who are binge eaters or compulsive overeaters may go undiagnosed more than women because of society's willingness to accept an overeating and/or overweight man more-so than an overeating or overweight woman.

Though it is more common for homosexual men to suffer from Eating Disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia (because of the tendency in the male gay community to place a high level of importance on success and appearance), there are still many heterosexual men out there who suffer. This contributes back into the shameful feelings a heterosexual male sufferer has -- he may be afraid that people will think he is gay -- or that a homosexual and heterosexual male can feel -- that the illness is considered to be a "female's problem". I have often received e-mail from men who are suffering in silence because of these two issues.

In addition, there may often be shrouds of secrecy because of the lack of therapy groups and treatment centers offering groups specifically designed for men. They may feel very alone at the thought of having to sit in a group of women, to be part of a program designed for women, and even at the prospect that a treatment facility will turn them down because of their sex.

Men who participate in low-weight oriented sports such as jockeys, wrestlers and runners are at an increased risk of developing an Eating Disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia. The pressure to succeed, to be the best, to be competitive and to win at all costs, combined with any non-athletic pressures in their lives (relationship issues, family problems, abuse, etc.) can help to contribute the onset of their disordered eating.

It is not uncommon for men suffering with an Eating Disorder to also suffer with alcoholism and/or drug abuse simultaneously (though many women also suffer both disordered eating and substance abuse problems combined). This may be due to the addictive nature of their psychological health combined with the strong images put out by society of men's overindulgence in alcohol. In addition, men suffering with Anorexia and Bulimia seem to have more sexual anxiety. There may also be a link between ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, with male sufferers of Anorexia and Bulimia and self-injury. More research needs to be done in this area. For all those who suffer, men and women, there are many possible co-existing psychological illnesses that can be present, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-injury behavior and substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder and multiple personality syndrome.

The most important thing, overall, to remember is that most of the underlying psychological factors that lead to an Eating Disorder are the same for both men and women. Low self-esteem, a need to be accepted, depression, anxiety or other existing psychological illness, and an inability to cope with emotions and personal issues. All of the physical dangers and complications associated with being the sufferer of an Eating Disorder are the same. A great number of the causes are the same or very similar (family problems, relationship issues, alcoholic/addictive parent, abuse, societal pressure). Most of all, all people with eating disorders deserve to find recovery and the happiness and self-love on the other side.

Link: Discussion Forum for Men with Eating Disorders

Link: Anorexia in Males


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