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Eating Disorders in Men

Posted on September 19th, 2017
Posted in Articles

Eating disorders are a group of serious, potentially life-threatening mental health conditions normally associated with women. It’s true that women represent a large majority of those affected. However, a significant percentage of men also experience symptoms of eating disorders and require assistance in some type of men’s treatment center.

Eating Disorder Essentials

There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. People affected by anorexia have a seriously distorted body image that leads them to believe they’re overweight even when their true weight falls to dangerously low levels. People affected by bulimia engage in periodic uncontrolled food binges followed by some form of purging behavior (e.g., intentional vomiting or laxative abuse). People affected by binge-eating disorder also binge periodically on food; however, they don’t follow up binging episodes with purging. For good reason, anorexia and bulimia get a great amount of attention from public health officials and the media. However, binge-eating disorder actually affects larger numbers of people than anorexia or bulimia.

There are also two other less well-defined eating disorders: “other” specified eating disorder and “unspecified” eating disorder. People with these conditions have significant problems that don’t qualify them for a diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. All eating disorders belong to a larger category of mental health conditions known as feeding and eating disorders.

Statistics in Men

The National Eating Disorders Association reports that men account for roughly 25% of all cases of anorexia and bulimia in the U.S. In addition, men account for approximately 36% of all cases of binge-eating disorder. It is estimated that eating disorders will affect about 10 million American men at some point in time. This is roughly half the number of women who will experience one of these conditions.

Not everyone who fasts excessively, binges on food or purges after eating has all of the symptoms needed to officially diagnose an eating disorder. Doctors refer to these non-diagnosable cases as subclinical eating disordered behaviors. Importantly, men are nearly as likely to develop these subclinical behaviors as women.

Effects in Men

Recent research indicates that men affected by eating disorders may actually have higher chances of dying than their female counterparts. In addition, men affected by eating disorders have good chances of simultaneously experiencing other serious mental health issues such as:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders, or
  • Substance use disorders

Co-occurring mental illnesses pose a much greater challenge to doctors than illnesses that occur separately. This is just another reason why a men’s treatment center often proves essential to helping men affected by eating disorders.

Resources

National Institute of Mental Health: Eating Disorders https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml

National Eating Disorders Association: Research on Males and Eating Disorders https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders

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