Women are not the only ones who gaze at photos of models and movie stars, wishing they, too, could have the seemingly perfect body. Men have desires for ideal bodies, too, and they can suffer from eating disorders as a result. Women are also not the only ones fighting with problems of self-esteem, guilt and shame. These feelings can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Though not as commonly discussed, eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia and binge eating – also occur among men.
Body image concerns
Statistics show that more than 10 million men in the United States will suffer with a major eating disorder at some point. Men are less likely than women to seek help, however, because of a perceived stigma about therapeutic treatment. One of the contributing factors to the increasing rate of men with eating disorders is the abundance of media representations of muscle-bound men. More than 40 percent of men in one study reported dissatisfaction with their bodies, and more than 30 percent experience depression.
In an effort to achieve certain muscularity, some men with eating disorders focus obsessively on low body fat and excellence in a particular sport. They may exercise compulsively and even resort to using steroids. Men who obsess about body image and sports could resort to damaging dieting practices. They may also diet to prevent weight gain, particularly if they assume that ideal weight is a requirement for the sport they choose. Men may also suffer with binge eating disorder and consume large amounts of food at a time, or binge and purge.
In a society bombarded with diet plans and weight loss programs, men can develop problematic eating habits. They may diet to achieve a body type assumed to be ideal by male models or participants in reality television. More often than not, males with eating disorders were overweight as children and may have experienced teasing because of it.
No matter the gender, people with eating disorders need professional help to recover. A physician can identify any physical problems associated with an eating disorder, and a therapist can help uncover the underlying causes of an eating disorder. Although the process of treatment can take a long time, investment in recovery enhances the possibility of preventing relapses into old, destructive eating behavior. Treatment includes learning about how to maintain a balanced life style, how to eat nutritiously and insight into the function of the eating disorder and other co-occurring disorders. Sometimes hospitalization is required. Men with eating disorders can recover with professional help and support.