Males with Eating Disorders
About seven million women across the country suffer from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa and bulimia and, as a result most research involving these disorders have only been conducted on females. However, as many as a million men may also suffer from these same disorders. Women are not the only people prone to disliking what they see when they look into the mirror. Now a days more men are worried about their body shape. Clinical reports tell us that one in ten men suffer from eating disorders. More attention needs to be paid to mens eating habits.
What eating disorders do men and boys get?
Just like girls and women, males get anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervous. Many males describe themselves as compulsive eaters, and they have binge eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa means a nervous loss of appetite. Symptoms are a refusal to maintain body weight or an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. An inability to perceive one’s body weight or shape correctly, (Scientific American, http://wwwsciam.com.exploration/1998/033298eating/anorexia.html).
An increasingly amount of men are seeking treatment. Just as women with this disorder are often involved in ballet and modeling, males suffer often from wrestling, running or practice similar sports that place a great deal of emphasis on dieting.
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Bulimia nervosa means to binge eat and the get it out of your system by means of purging. Symptoms are recurrent episodes of binge eating and purging to prevent weight gain. (Scientific American).
Men are also seeking treatment for Bulimia. Women in ballet and modeling are also prone to this disorder. Most men in wrestling are affected with this disease instead of anorexia because they find it easier to hide. They can eat all they want in public but then the go get rid of it in privacy.
How many males have these disorders?
Perhaps as many as one in six cases of anorexia nervosa occur in males, (ANRED http://www.anred.com).
Binge eating disorder seems to occur almost equally in males and females, although males are not as likely to feel guilty or anxious after a binge as women do. It is difficult to known exactly how many males have bulimia. Some researchers believe about 15% of all cases of this disorder occurs in men. Clinics and counselors see many more females than males, but that may be because males are reluctant to confess what has become known as a “teenage girl’s problem.” My health professionals do not expect to see eating disorders in men and may therefore misdiagnose them.
Are the risk factors any different for males than they are for females?
Risk factors for males include the following: They were overweight as children. They have been dieting. Dieting is one of the most powerful eating disorder triggers for both males and females, (ANRED).
They participate in a sport that demands thinness. Runners and jockeys are at a higher risk than football players and weight lifters. Wrestlers who try to shed pounds quickly before a match so they can compete in a lower weight category seem to be at high risk. Body builders are at risk if they deplete body fat fluid reserves to achieve high definition. They have job or profession that demands thinness like models and actors. So males are members of the gay community where men are judged on physical appearance. Male patients are usually more active, have more sexual anxiety, have fewer bulimic episodes, with less vomiting or laxative abuse, and have a more preoccupation with food and weight.
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Differences in disorders between males and females.
Males often begin and eating disorder at older ages then females do, and they more often have history of obesity or are overweight. Men are also made up to be strong and powerful, to build their bodies and make them large so they can compete successfully, and defend and protect, their skinny female companion. When women are asked what they would do with one wish, they almost always want to lose weight. Men asked the same question want money, power, sex, and a successful lifestyle. They usually think their bodies are fine the way they are. If they do have body concerns, they often want to bulk up and become larger and more muscular, not tiny like women do. Males usually equate thinness with weakness and that in something they desperately try to avoid.
Treatment of eating disorders in males.
Because eating disorders have been described as female problems, males are often exceedingly reluctant to admit they are in trouble and need help. Most treatment programs and support groups have been designed for females and are populated exclusively by females. Males report feeling uncomfortable and out of place in discussions of lost menstrual periods, women’s socio-cultural issues, female-oriented advertising, and similar topics. Like females, males usually need professional help to recover. Research shows that males who complete treatment given by professionals have better outcomes. Being male has no adverse affect on recovery once the person commits to an effective, well run program, (ANRED).
In terms of psychotherapy that is specifically geared to males, a report by Levine and colleagues on a professionally led support group for males with eating disorders concluded that extra effort is required by support-group leaders to reach out to this less prevalent, more secretive and resistant subgroup. These investigators also concluded that this subpopulation of males with eating disorders is likely to require additional social support, and that a support grout can have many positive effects for the men who give it a chance.( Braun http://www.medscape.com).
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Why eating disorders?
Men appear to diet for different reasons than women: the presence of the actual illness obesity; weight loss related to greater sports attainment or the fear of gaining weight because of a sports injury; and weight loss in order to avoid weight related medical illnesses found in other family members. (Men with Eating Disorders, http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu.html ).
Other reasons men with eating disorders diet: a desire to improve athletic performance, a history of being teased, criticized, or picked on for being overweight. Wanting to change a specific body part to remove flab is another reason. Guys who also have eating disorders have them because they want to be more attractive to a potential partner and to look less like one’s father and to look like models in magazines.
One of the nation’s leading researchers on eating disorders is Arnold E. Anderson, M.D. a professor of psychiatry in the University of Iowa College of Medicine. He has edited a book of studies, Males with Eating Disorders (Brunner/Mazel 1990), and is writing another for families faced with the problem. His most recent project involves tracing and comparing the development of attitudes about body shape and weight among fifth and sixth grade males and females in the Unites States and India. “Males with eating disorders have been relatively ignored, neglected, dismissed because of statistical infrequency or legislated out of existence by theoretical dogma,” said Anderson. Anderson said that although the disorders look the same for men and women, the paths for getting there are quite different. “The twin spotlights of empirical scientific studies and broad clinical experience can be brought to focus on either the similarities or the dissimilarities between males and females with eating disorders,” said Anderson. “When individuals are very ill, suffering from emaciation or abnormal electrolytes and other medical complications, they appear very similar and require similar treatment.” Binge eating disorder may go unrecognized in males because an overeating male is less likely to provoke attention than an overeating female. “And men are hesitant to seek medical attention for a disorder they fear will be seen as a girl’s disorder or a gay guy’s disease,” Anderson said.
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Eating disorders remain predominantly female illnesses. However, these disorders are common that even if only 10% of sufferers were male, hundreds of thousands of young men would be affected, making it an important health problem for males. Researchers believe that eating disorders may be under diagnosed in males. During the 1980s and 1990s there has been an apparent increase in recognition and interest by researchers in eating disorders among males, which has resulted in a number of articles, at least two Internet sites and one book about eating disorders in males. Although there appear to be more similarities than differences between males and females with eating disorders, much can be learned from the differences between the two groups. Gender differences that have emerged in some studies of patients with eating disorders include a higher incidence of homosexuality among males with eating disorders. Extreme pressure to be thin may alone be strong enough to precipitate development of eating disorders. Such added attention to weight and body fat and pressure to diet might be environmental pressures experienced by obese males.(Braun http://www.medscape.com).
Further study of eating disorders may determine the treatment and prevention strategies that are most appropriate for males.