Are You a Man with an Eating Disorder? You’re Not Alone

Eating disorders used to be thought of as a problem that affected mostly women. However, as teenage boys and adult males have become more image conscious, there has been a dramatic rise in eating disorders in men. Recent studies suggest that men, once considered to account for one in 10 cases of eating disorders, now make up approximately one in three.

We Know Males Want to Work with Someone who Understands Them.

The Body Image Therapy Center (TBITC) is one of the only programs in the country where adolescent boys and men can be treated by therapists trained to work specically with males with eating disorders. Our founder, Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, has spoken on national TV and written a book about his experience with eating disorders across the spectrum, body image disturbance and his eventual full recovery. Research has shown that men with eating disorders have better outcomes when they are treated by therapists who recognized eating disorders often look very difficult in males than females.

The Common Types of Eating Disorders in Men are Described Below

Anorexia Nervosa

Characterized by the drive for extreme thinness, anorexia nervosa can be found in boys who may have received teasing for being “chubby” as a child. It’s also more common in athletes where weight classes are involved, such as wrestling, boxing, gymnastics and running. And doctors are seeing it more among boys and men trying to avoid their fathers’ medical issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is characterized as a food binge followed by a purge, which could include self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. The binge eating is often a method of self-medication for depressed mood, stress, anxiety, fear or anger. The drive to meet the accepted male figure stereotype leads to the use of these purging methods, which in turn create a perpetual and self-destructive cycle. However, purging behavior is not always preceded by a binge. Most commonly, men will binge and then compulsively exercise thinking they are “burning off the calories” in a healthy way, but the damage to joints, tendons, muscles and psyche are every bit as damaging. Damage to kidneys and liver also are common with this as men often exercise without hydrating to see the scale move down, seen commonly is sports where “making weight” is required such as wrestling.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is marked by the same self-medicating response with food but without the purging behavior, and occurs in men nearly 3 times as often as anorexia and bulimia combined. Consequences of BED include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gastrointestinal distress, sleep apnea, anxiety and depression.

Muscle Dysmorphia

Muscle Dysmorphia (Reverse Anorexia or belief you aren’t big enough), is a newer phenomenon that occurs almost exclusively in men. It is characterized by the belief that one can never be big enough. This condition often leads to the abuse of steroids and other enhancement products in an effort to avoid the deep sense of inadequacy of one’s body.