Men and Eating Disorders

In the United States alone, an estimated 7 to 10 million women suffer from some type of eating disorder. There’s no arguing that eating disorders affect more women than men; however, a growing number of men and boys are struggling with unhealthy behaviors serious enough to qualify as full-fledged eating disorders. The National Institute of Health estimates that five to 15 percent of patients diagnosed with bulimia and anorexia and 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are male.

Most experts believe that the reasons for eating disorders in men are not much different than those experienced by women, and the risk factors are much the same. Eating disorders are more prevalent for people who were overweight as children, or for those who live with a close relative with an eating disorder. People who struggle with depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are more likely to experience eating disorders. People who have dieted in the past are much more likely to develop disordered eating.

Like women, men are subject to the media’s powerful messages about the importance of physical appearance. As a result, men, like women, hold themselves to unrealistic, impossible standards. Men may also have varying issues associated with sexuality, family dynamics and social stigma.

Although men and women are both driven to achieve the “perfect” body, there are some differences in how eating disorders are manifested. For example, women are usually driven to lose weight and be thin, and this is often true for men as well. However, many men consider themselves to be too small and they develop eating disorders in an attempt to "bulk up. This condition – an overriding desire to be more muscular – is known as muscle-dysmorphia. Men (and a few women), sometimes turn to steroid drugs in an attempt to bulk up quickly.

Involvement in activities such as wrestling, swimming or gymnastics that require weight restriction also often increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.

Men are Reluctant to Seek Treatment

Unfortunately, men and boys are less likely to receive treatment for eating disorders, probably because men tend to be reluctant to seek help for a disorder they believe is that belongs to teenage girls. Research by the US Department of Health suggests that men with certain eating disorders such as binge-eating disorder are more likely to remain unnoticed than girls with the same disorders.

It’s also an unfortunate truth that it’s more difficult for men to find dedicated treatment possibilities, as the vast majority of eating disorder treatment providers cater solely to girls and women.

At Paracelsus Recovery, we offer highly individualized treatment for eating disorders in a supportive, non judgmental environment. We have a lot of experience in treating boys and men and thus a deep and thorough understanding of the experience, male clients go through. Clients stay at a private residence with a live-in therapist who is present around the clock. Other experienced treatment professionals visit clients at the residence daily, according to the treatment plan. Treatment involves restoration of biochemical balance, psychotherapy to target the underlying causes for the eating disorder, daily lifestyle coaching and nutritional education. Treatment may also involve trauma therapy, family therapy, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, reflexology and personal training. We gently guide our clients back to a realistic body image, self-worth and self-confidence and they gain a range of skills to navigate a healthier and happier life.

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