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Eating Disorders in Men

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

One third of those with eating disorders are men. While the stigmas around having a mental health diagnosis and what is considered a "feminine" mental health concern keep some men from receiving treatment, eating disorders are one of the mostly deadly mental health concerns and getting treatment early is always the best option.

Most of the time when one thinks of eating disorders, they picture a very skinny looking female who might binge or purge on occasion in addition to having a rigorous exercise routine. While this might fit the description of some who struggle with disordered eating, there is often a population that is ignored or not even acknowledged even though they make up a third of those who fall within the category.

Eating disorders can affect anyone, but men who struggle with them are often faced with extra stigma.

The idea that struggling with mental health is a sign of weakness deters many men from getting help they need. In addition to this idea of being seen as weak, since eating disorders are commonly associated with females, that association of being seen as feminine can also be a big deterrent. These strong negative stigmas lead to so much unnecessary prolonged suffering.

There has always been an “ideal” body type that is glamorized in the media for both men and women. It may feel that women are blasted more with these ideals because of the inherent value we as a society place on women’s physical appearance. The effects of these ideals are strong too with men, but may occur more subtly.

Many people with disordered eating also experience body dysmorphia where one can't stop thinking about perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. This focus on the flaws causes the person to rigorously control their diet and exercise thinking this will fix the problem.

The ideal male body is very muscular and lean, which isn’t inherently a bad thing to promote a healthy body image, but the damage comes from when it feels like there is no other option and those who don’t achieve this ideal are not good enough or are not wanted. In reality, there are different standards for what is considered healthy based on your individual body and conditions. Figuring what works for you might take help from a doctor or nutritionist.

Binge Eating Disorder In Men

Binge eating disorder is more common in males than other eating disorders. It’s characteristics may seem harmless and many people do not realize that the way they engage with food are actually criteria for binge eating disorder. Some signs of binge eating disorder are:

  • Eating until you’re uncomfortably full

  • Eating more in one sitting than an average person

  • Eating really fast and feeling out of control of how much you ate

  • Eating when you don’t feel hungry or are already full

Being able to have a healthy relationship with food should be a goal for all of us, not just those who struggle with disordered eating. Recognizing the signs of eating disorders helps us be more conscious of our own habits as well as the habits of others in our lives. Oftentimes, even if the person does not recognize that they meet criteria for an eating disorder, there could be other underlying issues going on.

What's Going On Beneath An Eating Disorder?

A lot of the time, those with eating disorders often suffer from anxiety and depression as well. These co-morbidities can complicate trying to seek help especially for males since there is a lower rate of males seeking mental health care.

It is not easy for anyone to admit that they aren’t okay or that they are struggling. We pride ourselves in being able to be fully independent and staying strong when things are tough. Males often feel this extra pressure to not show weakness or perceived failures because of the role society has placed on them. I am here to tell you that no one, not even the most put together “strong” person you know, is able to be strong 100% all the time everyday without wavering. It is actually impossible because we all have limits and we are often pushed past them because of life’s demands.

Eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. They are a prime example of how mental health and physical health are inextricably connected. Being able to allow others to help you is one of the first steps in helping yourself.

If you want help or think it would just be helpful to talk to someone about eating habits or anything else give us a call at Mindsight, 606-401-2966!

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