Eating Disorders In Men
What are Eating Disorders in Men?
Eating disorders in men are far more common than you may think.
In fact, according to The National Eating Disorders Association, one in three individuals who has an eating disorder is male.
While characteristics and health consequences in men and women are similar, gender stereotypes can make it harder to detect eating disorders in men.
These same stereotypes also make it less likely for men to seek help on their own, reducing their likelihood of making a recovery.
However, it is possible for you or your loved one to regain peace of mind and overcome an eating disorder’s struggles with the right professional help and treatment.
Continue reading to learn more about how eating disorders start in men, how they can be recognized, and what treatment options are available to help men recover their physical and mental health from the grip of this disorder.
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Understanding These Food-Related Disorders in Men
When most people think about eating disorders, they usually think of young women struggling with anorexia or bulimia. But, this is a misconception.
According to the researchers at Johns Hopkins, eating disorders encompass a variety of behaviors, including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, fasting, avoidant restrictive food disorder, diet pill abuse, and compulsive exercise.
Furthermore, while it is common for eating disorders to be motivated by a desire for weight loss, they can also be motivated by extreme stress, phobias, or other emotional health issues.
It is important to remember that, whatever first triggers an eating disorder, it is not a choice.
Men who suffer from an eating disorder will likely continue to struggle without professional intervention.
And those who do not get help can suffer from serious, long-term health consequences, which can include fatal conditions, such as heart failure, kidney failure, and death.
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Effects for Men with Eating Disorders
The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 10 million men will suffer from these disorders throughout their lives.
While stress, need for control, depression, and other disorders can trigger eating disorders in men; they often arise in conjunction with sports or “health regimens.”
This can blur the line between a high school student working to reduce his weight for an upcoming sports season, a man working on his muscle definition, and someone struggling with a mental health issue.
Male athletes such as gymnasts, swimmers, bodybuilders, wrestlers, boxers, runners, and dancers can also be particularly prone to developing eating disorders since weight can be a determining factor in success in those endeavors.
Furthermore, the widely held belief that eating disorders are a female issue causes loved ones to overlook the symptoms of an eating disorder in men, which include:
- Preoccupation with weightlifting and bodybuilding
- Stress associated with missing a workout
- Working out when injured
- Physical weakness
- Dramatic weight loss
- Stomach cramps
- Anger at being questioned about eating and exercise habits
- Impaired immune functioning
- Difficulty concentrating
- Strong need for control
- Decreased interest in sex
Additional stereotypes that men suffering from eating disorders can reduce the probability that men will seek help, either fearing that their sexual orientation will be mislabeled; or that they will “out” themselves by entering treatment.
When men suffering from eating disorders do start to experience fatigue, sickness, muscle cramps, and other health consequences of an eating disorder, the signs are often explained in other ways until the real cause can no longer be denied.
Since the male body has a lower fat percentage than the female body, men with untreated eating disorders will begin to burn muscle quickly, resulting in lower blood pressure and, ultimately, heart failure.
Dehydration can also result in kidney failure, and reduced nutrition and oxygen flow to the brain can result in brain damage.
Mental Illness and Eating Disorders in Men
While many men with eating disorders do begin their unhealthy relationship with food while engaging in one of the previously mentioned activities — it is not the activity but rather an underlying emotional issue that causes the eating disorder.
For this reason, it is usually not enough for the individual to simply reduce their engagement with an activity, such as quitting a bodybuilding circuit, since the underlying issue will still be there.
Typical emotional catalysts for eating disorders include:
- Low self-esteem
- Pressure from family and friends to lose weight
- Desire to “fit in” with cultural norms
- Use of food as a coping mechanism
- Trouble expressing emotion
- Controlling environment
- History of sexual abuse
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
It is important to note that these underlying factors can also result in other behavioral issues, such as suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol use, and other high-risk behavior.
Research suggests that, because of the underlying mental health issues that trigger eating disorders, the presence of eating disorders can be directly predictive of larger patterns of self-harm.
Treatment for Eating Disorders in Men
Since eating disorders can have lasting physical and mental health consequences, it is vital to get professional assistance with your condition.
Since men with eating disorders face different social constraints and stereotypes, treatment must recognize their unique needs.
For example, the negative toll eating disorders take on the body can result in an unhealthy drop in testosterone for men. Testosterone replacement treatments can help you begin to feel healthier and resume normal activities while the treatment unfolds.
Additionally, depending on the severity of the underlying issues, prescriptions for depression or anxiety may also be incorporated to help you cope with some of the stressors that trigger eating disorder behaviors.
Relationship counseling and family therapy may also be strategies in your recovery to improve communication and resolve underlying family dynamic issues that may create barriers to recovery.
Another strategy that can be effective in the treatment of eating disorders in men is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This treatment approach works to uncover underlying thought patterns that promote harmful activities and provide you with ways to reframe your thinking and reshape your behaviors for a healthier life.
Do you want treatment but are worried about how you can pay for it?
We have a team of financial professionals who provide free insurance verification. We will work with you to determine how to move forward with the treatment in a way that works for you and your financial situation.
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How to Get Help
Are you ready to break free from the grip of eating disorders?
Resurgence Behavioral Health can help.
We understand that no two eating disorder recoveries are the same and that men coping with eating disorders have unique physical and psychological needs.
We can assist with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat underlying thought patterns; prescriptions and counseling to help with depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder; group therapies to help you recover with peer encouragement; and many more strategies to help you develop the skills and confidence needed to win your battle with eating disorders.
Call Resurgence Behavioral Health at 855-458-0050 to schedule an appointment and begin your journey.