Although you may think that eating disorders only affect women, this is a misconception. Data shows that 1 in 6 males will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. In spite of this, for a number of reasons men are less likely to seek help:
- Males are less likely to seek medical help in general unless they have a serious medical condition
- The popular notion that eating disorders are predominantly a female issue
- Most of the media attention and treatment services for eating disorders are focused on women, which can make men feel intimidated, isolated and unwilling to seek help
The Most Common Male Eating Disorder
In most cases, women with eating disorders focus on thinness. Men, on the other hand, may be more concerned with muscularity, which is not always seen as a negative goal. Since men with eating disorders tend to be focused on achieving a certain body image, they may be obsessed with caloric intake, exercising excessively at the gym and they may also use performance-enhancing drugs. This type of disorder is known as muscle dysmorphia. An individual suffering from this may believe he is not muscular enough, in spite of the fact that he may actually have above average muscle mass.
Risk Factors Specific to Men
- Being overweight for their age and height throughout childhood
- Being bullied or teased about their weight as a child
- A history of dieting
- Obsession with fitness and a tendency to over-exercise
- A pre-occupation with developing a particular physique which can take over health concerns
- Obsession with a particular sport that requires thinness, such as running
- A profession that requires thinness, such as acting, modeling or entertaining
Are you or a loved one suffering from an Eating Disorder? LiveWell uses group and individual therapy as well as family therapy in their IOP treatment plans.
Signs and Symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia
Men who are suffering from this disorder become consumed by exercise and will have a tendency to spend hours at the gym every day and develop an obsession with weightlifting. Sufferers tend to be preoccupied with measuring their muscle mass and will often complain that it’s insufficient, even though this is likely untrue.
People suffering from muscle dysmorphia are often fixated on eating a strict diet that is packed with protein and aimed specifically at increasing the size of their muscles.
Time spent away from the gym may cause sufferers to feel stress or anxiety. For this reason, they will often cancel social events; avoid job opportunities and family occasions. Sometimes men with muscle dysmorphia will exercise to such an extreme that they cause permanent muscle damage. Many sufferers also start to use steroids.
Whether your preoccupation is thinness or muscularity, if you are a male with an eating disorder it is important that you seek professional help. Although you may feel isolated and intimidated by your condition, a qualified mental health professional will understand and be empathetic to your situation. He or she will develop a treatment plan suited to your individual needs and see you through the process of recovery.