Eating disorders are generally associated with women. The truth is, however, that this problem affects men too, and because there is not much talk about male eating disorders, men often hesitate to seek professional help. It is estimated that five to 15 percent of people who suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia are men. Also, it is believed that 35 percent of people with binge-eating disorders are male. That is certainly not a negligible number.
Signs and symptoms of eating disorders in men
In most cases, the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in men are the same as the ones seen in women with the same problem. This includes obsessive fear of gaining weight, radical loss of weight, obsession with fitness and exercise, vomiting after meals, use of laxatives, purging, unusual food rituals, secretive eating patterns, hiding food, flushing food down the toilet and many more. Anorexia and bulimia in advanced stages also have significant impact on the physical health, observed as weakened immune system, easy bruising, brittle bones, poor blood circulation, low blood pressure and many more.
These are characteristic for anorexia and bulimia, while compulsive overeating or binge-eating can be characterized by an obsessive fear of not being able to stop eating or to control eating, obsession with weight loss, weight gain, poor physical condition, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, sweating, problems with cholesterol and blood pressure and more.
Challenges of male eating disorders
It can be very complicated to diagnose an eating disorder in males, probably because the society does not automatically associate those disorders with male population. Close friends and family often discover the problem only after the disorder has entered more advanced stages. In addition, men feel embarrassed about suffering from something that is perceived as “women’s disorder” so they suffer alone and in silence.
Another problem is that health professionals are often not trained to recognize eating disorders in men so they mistakenly focus on other issues, believing the problem to be something else.
Problems also arise in therapy, especially in group therapy sessions, where men feel isolated from the group that is usually comprised of mostly women.
However, eating disorders in males can be successfully treated. The therapy may take some time and in some cases a lifetime-long clinical and psychological treatment may be required, but it is necessary to address the problem and to make the society more aware that men too can suffer from eating disorders.