Prevalence of Eating Disorders Among Men
Eating disorders are commonly thought to be a “women only” disorder, but the reality is that eating disorders do affect men, and new research suggests that eating disorders are nearly as prevalent amongst men as women. Because eating disorders are often considered a condition only affecting women, researchers believe the impact of eating disorders on the health of men has been underestimated.
“Researchers have thought eating disorders are the domain of women so a lot of the research has been biased towards women and not really recruited men,” said Debora Mitchison, a PhD candidate in the School of Medicine at the University of Western Sydney in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Mitchison and her colleagues surveyed 3000 individuals in South Australia regarding common factors associated with eating disorders, including binge eating, dieting and body image. Results of the study showed that of the participants reporting eating disorder features, men constituted a substantial minority (23-4%).
“That was surprising,” Mitchison said. “It was thought that there was a bigger gap between men and women. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), an estimated 10-15% of people suffering from anorexia or bulimia are male.
The study also found that “objective binge eating had a greater impact on mental health impairment in men versus women, whereas the over-evaluation of weight or shape had a greater impact on general and mental health impairment in women compared with men.”
According to the American Psychological Association, because eating disorders are commonly considered a “woman’s disease,” men may be less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders. Failure to seek treatment for an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia can lead to a more significant impact on physical and mental health.
Anorexia and bulimia are serious diseases and should be treated with the help of a professional. If you believe a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, it’s important that you learn to recognize the signs and know when to ask for help. Although the warning signs of bulimia and anorexia may vary by individual, here are a few common warning signs of bulimia and anorexia.
Warning signs of bulimia:
- Binge eating — consuming excessive amounts of food in a short period of time
- Eating in secret
- Raiding the refrigerator, kitchen cabinets, hiding or hoarding food
- Frequent talk about weight, body image and dieting
- Rapid fluctuation of weight (gaining and losing)
- Use of diuretics or laxatives
- Dry or loose skin, mouth or gum sores, tooth decay, thinning hair, bloating, lack of energy
- Depression, isolation, anxiety, feelings of guilt, suicidal thoughts
- Impulsive behavior resulting in drug use, shoplifting, shopping binges or multiple sexual partners
Warning signs of anorexia:
- Obsession over weight. Expressing feeling “fat” or “overweight” even though they may be within normal, healthy weight range.
- Isolation, depression, insecurity, perfectionism, anxiety, self-consciousness, irritability, avoidance of social situations.
- Extreme exercise regimen and obsession over caloric intake.
- Dry or yellowed skin, hair loss, brittle nails and fatigue.
Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are two serious diseases, both of which can cause serious medical complications. Eating disorders often cannot be treated without the help of a professional. Bulimia and anorexia have psychological and emotional roots that must be treated. If you suspect a young man in your life may be suffering from bulimia or anorexia, do not ignore the signs. Seek immediate help from a professional.
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