Early Intervention for Male Eating Disorders

Early Intervention for Male Eating DisordersThe two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is referred to as the “starving disease” because individuals literally starve themselves to maintain an unrealistic and unhealthy body image, and bulimia nervosa is referred to as “binge and purge” because individuals eat excessively (binge) and then rid themselves (purge) of what they consumed.

While it is true that eating disorders occur more frequently in females, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Among gay men, nearly 14 percent suffer from bulimia, and over 20 percent appear to be anorexic.

Identifying Male Eating Disorders

Some of the classic signs of female eating disorders include being obvious about a focus on appearance, talking excessively about food and perceiving one’s body image to be overweight when, in reality, one is not.

Because many people look for these signs, they may miss that a male is showing signs of an eating disorder. Males are often not quite as obvious because they may diet to improve athletic performance, which is often socially acceptable. Males also achieve a better body image through bodybuilding, weightlifting and muscle toning. None of these behaviors are suspect because they appear to be focused on strength and athleticism versus an underlying low self-esteem or negative perceptions. Therefore, because these behaviors are more “justified,” males are less likely to be diagnosed early with an eating disorder.

Getting Treatment for Male Eating Disorders

According to ANAD, doctors, parents and other adults who work with young people are less likely to diagnosis an eating disorder in males than females. In addition, males who admit that they have an eating disorder also admit that they are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that eating disorders are “woman’s diseases.” Between these two factors of lack of recognition and resistance to treatment, many males with eating disorders are going untreated.

Treatment for eating disorders does not have a gender distinction; the goal of treatment is to get the person physically stabilized and to help the person get resolution for the underlying causes of the disorder.

Do You Suspect Someone Has an Eating Disorder?

No one wants to admit that someone he or she loves has an eating disorder, but the most important thing is to act quickly. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Therefore, you do not want to deny what you are seeing. Do not rationalize the behaviors you are witnessing; seek help now. You can contact your family physician, do research online or contact us at the toll-free number provided. Getting help early is very important for the health of your loved one.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

The sooner you can get help for someone with an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood that he or she can recover. People often think there is a stigma associated with eating disorders; therefore, they do not want to talk to others about it. To be assured of confidentiality as well as to receive answers to any questions you have, call our toll-free number. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day. We want to help you find the right treatment program to handle eating disorders and can provide you with options, information about insurance and other resources.