Anorexia and bulimia are the two most widely known eating disorders, and despite their association with women, 10 percent to 15 percent of sufferers are men, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Figures suggest that among gay men, rates of bulimia were as high as 14 percent, and over 20 percent appeared to be anorexic. Almost one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy methods to control their weight, such as smoking, fasting, skipping meals, vomiting or using laxatives. Of all Americans suffering from an eating disorder, only one in 10 receives treatment, and this number is lower in men, meaning that the statistics likely underestimate the prevalence of eating disorders among men.
Which Eating Disorders Affect Men?
While men fall victim to anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, a large proportion fall into the “eating disorder not otherwise specified” category. This means that eating disorders that affect men are often less common or even virtually unheard of in women. “Bigorexia” (or muscle dysmorphia) is an example of an eating disorder often affecting many more men than women: this is the obsession with “bulking up,” packing on muscle mass potentially with the help of steroids. However, a higher proportion of men are also thought to suffer from bulimia (characterized by cycles of bingeing and purging) and binge eating disorder. The fact that these conditions are a particular concern for men means that sufferers are often larger than average, presenting more problems with identification than for women with anorexia, for example, who are often shockingly thin.
The only silver lining is that awareness of eating disorders among men is increasing. As groups like Men Get Eating Disorders Too get their message out, more and more male sufferers will recognize their problems and realize that they aren’t alone. This is only the beginning, though, and the bigger issue is changing the institutional focus on women in both the diagnosis and treatment of the conditions. While funding issues often prevent male-only treatment centers from taking root, more acknowledgement of the issue among men and the inclusion of advice and support targeted at men in existing programs would help them feel less marginalized. Awareness-raising must continue, but making changes to treatment in order to acknowledge the issue among men is vital to helping more male sufferers overcome and control their eating disorders.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, their is help. Footprints of Serenity's knowledgeable and caring staff is here to assist you in any way. Please have no hesitation and call us today at 213-80-SOBER.