Eating Disorders In Adult Men: The Silent Victims?

By Maneera Saxena Behl.

When you hear the words ‘Eating Disorder’, you immediately picture a teen girl who eats her meal and then purges it all out to maintain her figure. No one ever pictures a man, who is obsessively working out at the gym for hours on end and starving himself to look like a celebrity on a fitness magazine cover?

This is because for years, eating disorders have been associated with only women, because less than 10% of the patients diagnosed with eating disorders were men. However, today, the story is very different. Recent research now paints a very different picture, with 25% of all patients diagnosed around the world with eating disorders being men, according to a study done at Harvard.

Real Difference Between Eating Disorders In Men And Women

When asked, many experts will tell you that though the diseases which affect both men and women are the same – namely bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder, the symptoms and the methods to achieve their goals will differ. Let us take a look how:

The symptoms of a disease differ in men and women. While in women the diagnostic criteria for a disease like anorexia will be the absence of menstruation and the fear of being fat, in men it will be the desire to work out excessively and have a very low body fat percentage. Some will abuse steroids for this. And unlike women who use laxatives and diuretics to purge and vomit their food, men tend to exercise compulsively. And this is the main reason why eating disorders in men go undetected for so long and they become silent victims. Our society thinks of those who exercise excessively as Fit and Disciplined, not troubled with their body image.

Surprisingly, while many doctors will know that a model or an actress has eating disorders, it never comes to light that athletes like runners, wrestlers, jockeys and gymnasts are far more prone to eating disorders. For these athletes, weight is a crucial component of their athletic performance and because weight loss is seen as a way to enhance their job prospects, look fitter and more impressive, no one really objects to it.

Who Is At More Risk?

  • Athletes, for whom their weight is crucial to performance.
  • Adolescent boys who have been teased about their weight.
  • Men who has OCD.
  • Homosexual men.

Do You Have An Eating Disorder?

If you love your gym workouts and are suddenly scared whether you too have an eating disorder, here are a few early symptoms to look out for:

  • Your thoughts about food and exercise interfere with your quality of life.
  • If you associate food with emotional and physical well being.
  • You enjoy starving yourself for days and yet over exercise to achieve your goals to lose weight faster.

Barriers To Treatment

In order for men with eating disorders to get help timely, there have to be more programs in place that acknowledge that men too have eating disorders. Additionally, the stigma attached to eating disorders, especially for men, needs to be worked upon by the society as a whole. We see men as being able and strong and always in control; it is far harder for men to accept the fact that they have a problem as compared to sex, simply because they are seen as the stronger sex.

So you see, men tend to suffer in silence with Eating disorders, simply because most of them don’t even realise they have a problem. They consider their obsession with fitness as a ‘healthy’ thing and the future complications that arise from their disorders come as a surprise to them. Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a clinical Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, has mentioned in many interviews that men are more prone to binge eating and bulimia as compared to anorexia.  He says that cases of eating disorders in men have drastically risen since the 1980s, because more and more people give more and more importance to fitness.

No one wants to be obese and suffer from obesity related diseases, and many men are responding to this by going too extreme with their workouts.

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Maneera is a health and fitness writer, and has contributed her works to many online magazines and websites, including HealthVivaWorldoffemale and Forevershe. Through her writing she wants to share her experiences and knowledge in safe ways to lose weight and improve overall health by choosing a new improved holistic lifestyle that brings about positive changes in mind, body and spirit.

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