Eating disorders are not just experienced by teenage girls who are too focused on their weight. Eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, including boys and men.
Males can also suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. More than 10 million males in the US suffer from some kind of eating disorder. Males make up 15% of the cases of anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
Research is showing that there are probably more males with bulimia in the US than females with anorexia. Bulimia seems to be more common in males than anorexia.
Males with eating disorders often get very sick as it is not common for these boys and men to seek out professional help and care. Males are often only noticed as having a problem in a much later stage of the disease than women usually are, or they are often misdiagnosed and so do not receive the right care when they need it. This is very dangerous.
Different eating disorders
This is a serious disease and it can lead to death through starvation if help is not found in time. It is important to recognize the symptoms of this disease so you can seek help for yourself or a loved one before it is too late.
Some of the symptoms are:
- Intense fear of gaining weight or being “fat”
- Difficulty eating full meals
- Obsession with body size
- Can become very withdrawn
- Limiting food and very strict calorie intake
- Menstrual difficulties
Bulimia is an illness where a person overeats or binges on food and then feels intense shame. They then purge themselves of this food either through vomiting or abusing laxatives.
Some of the symptoms of bulimia are:
- Compulsive exercise
- Eating beyond the point of fullness
- Going to the bathroom regularly after a meal
- Eating in secret
- Abusing laxatives, diet pills or diuretics
Binge eating disorder is usually seen by a person compulsively overeating. You may consume large amounts of food, with seemingly no control over when to stop. Often binge eaters gorge themselves without being fully aware of what they are eating or tasting.
The symptoms of binge eaters thinking about eating seemingly all the time; frequent episodes of overeating or binging; eating in secret; feelings of guilt or shame after eating; and eating beyond feelings of being full or satisfied.
Symptoms that differ with males with an eating disorder
Generally, the symptoms of eating disorders are the same in males as in female, however there are some gender differences in terms of age of onset and pre-illness levels of obesity.
Males tend to have a later onset, so often older than puberty or the teenage years. Males also tend to have higher levels of obesity before the onset of an eating disorder.
Males may start out on their eating disorder pathway by starting to exercise or gym excessively. Then as they become hyper-focused on the perfect body, they then start restricting food. Their outward intention may appear that they want to become healthier, rather than losing weight. This can often disguise the eating disorder for longer as they may initially go through a stage of looking more toned, muscular and fit before it becomes evident that there is a problem.
Causes and risk factors of male eating disorders
It is not known what the causes are for eating disorders are, but there are risk factors and triggers that can lead to an eating disorder. There are gender differences in these risks and triggers.
Some of the risk factors for males may be:
- Sports – certain sports (like boxing, wrestling, rowing) put an emphasis on a certain weight bracket per division; others require a player to be lean and strong, or a certain size and shape. This puts pressure to either put on and lose weight or maintain a certain shape.
- Dieting – dieting is a known risk factor for the onset of eating disorders, and this is true for both men and women. Dieting changes the relationship with food and puts emphasis on “good” and “bad” foods.
- Obesity – obesity is a very big risk factor in males to develop an eating disorder.
- Gender Orientation – There seems to be a direct connection between homosexuality and eating disorders in males, but not in females. This does not mean that all gay males have eating disorders, and vice versa.
Some of the triggers for males with eating disorders may be:
- Being bullied for being overweight
- Comments from a strong male figure about being overweight
- Being in a sport that requires very strict weight control
- A relationship breakdown
- A career change
- Illness or a loss at home
- Extreme work pressure
Treatment plans for boys and men with an eating disorder
Treatment for males with eating disorders looks similar to that for females, however it is important that treatment is tailored to meet the individual, and at The Center • A Place of HOPE the care is focused on you as an individual and treatment is tailored to you. The Center • A Place of HOPE will assess your mental, medical, nutritional and fitness health to help to give you the best care that you need to begin your journey of healing.
At The Center • A Place of HOPE, they have a team of licensed and experienced and very caring eating disorder professionals to assist you on your journey every step of the way.
They will also look at any co-existing issues like depression, anxiety or substance abuse. This helps to ensure every area of your life is being looked after to ensure a full recovery.
The Center • A Place of HOPE has a treatment plan for you.
Eating disorders frequently asked questions
If you have more questions about different types of eating disorders, who is the treatment for, the treatment available, or the place of hope itself, then please look at our FAQs page.
The Center • A Place of HOPE is a safe place for you to get in touch with to get all the help you need for the time you need it, to begin your journey to wellness and health.