MALE EATING DISORDERS: MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK
Eating disorders are equal opportunity offenders—prevalent in both female and male populations. Unfortunately, that truth may come as a bit of a surprise to the public. Despite plenty of clinical literature showing eating disorders to be gender-blind, the common misconception is that it is primarily women who battle these destructive diseases.
A recent study in Psychiatric Times confirms this. “Eating disorders are often thought of as a ‘female problem,’” the article states. “Even researchers, advocates and treatment providers who are aware that these disorders affect men and boys are plagued by misinformation.”
The study provides an example: It is often cited that about ten percent of those who battle with an eating disorder are male, but actually, that number is woefully out of date. “When it was published 25 years ago, it represented the number of men and boys in treatment, not in the general population,” notes the Psychiatric Times report. “In fact, the best available data indicate that males account for 25 percent of individuals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and 36 percent of those with binge eating disorder. Most disturbingly, disordered eating practices may, for the first time, be increasing at a faster rate in males than in females.”
Clearly, there are many males who struggle with eating disorders, and their struggle isn’t afforded nearly the attention that it deserves—but why, exactly, do so many males have these conditions?
Male Eating Disorders: Causes
The “why” of an eating disorder is always tough to narrow down. There are a number of factors that can affect eating disorders, and in many cases, an eating disorder may develop in response to trauma or some other form of mental illness. In other cases, an eating disorder—like depression or anxiety—comes down to matters of brain chemistry. Family dynamics, when they are abusive or stressful, can also play a role. All of these triggers can affect men just as surely as they affect women.
There is also the issue of body image. Women are constantly assailed by cultural messaging telling them what an idealized body looks like. Men deal with the same thing, even if the specifics may be a little different. Certainly, men face rigid cultural standards of what constitutes a “masculine” body. These standards are even stricter among athletes, and even tougher to deal with within the LGBT community.
Male Eating Disorders: Warning Signs & Treatment
Causes aside, men can struggle with a range of eating disorders—including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and more. To help determine if you or your male friend has an eating disorder, these warning signs might be helpful:
- You are chronically dieting, even if you are also perpetually underweight.
- Your weight is in a constant state of flux.
- You spend far too much time thinking about and obsessing over your caloric intake or the fat content in your foods.
- You exercise to an extreme, feeling guilt and anxiety if you miss a single fitness session.
- You engage in secretive or ritualistic eating behaviors—hiding food, eating alone, etc.
- You grow socially isolated and withdrawn, avoiding groups of people— especially gatherings where food is being served.
- You continually alternate between overeating and fasting.
All of these warning signs can point to some grim realities—but there is some hopeful news here, as well: No male is ever beyond the scope of eating disorder recovery. With the right clinical intervention, men can achieve lifelong recovery and healing. The first step is to seek out a diagnosis. If you or someone you know has male eating disorders, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
As always if you or someone you know needs eating disorder treatment, call 888.822.8938 for help.
Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness or melancholy. It’s a true mental health disorder, and the effects can be both pervasive and extreme; that’s why depression is a leading factor in suicide. Treatment for depression is readily available, and recovery is attainable—but many people, especially men, choose instead to suffer in silence, never seeking the help they need or allowing themselves to hit rock bottom before they admit to a problem.
There are a number of reasons why men might not seek treatment. Misinformation about depression is one major culprit; some men may not realize its seriousness, or understand the hope that is available. In other cases, men might fear that the recovery process is too difficult—and to be fair, recovery is never easy.
Men and Depression: Common Myths
The biggest reason why men don’t seek treatment for depression, however, is simple stigma. Seeking treatment for depression may be seen—erroneously—as somehow weak or unmanly. While these misconceptions are in no way true, they certainly are pervasive, and belief in these myths about depression treatment prevents many men from getting the help they need.
Here are some specific myths about men and depression—as well as some rebuttals. We cannot stress enough the importance of breaking past these myths, eradicating stigma, and helping men to get the mental health care they need.
Depression is a sign of personal weakness. You would never say that a man gets cancer because he is weak, or develops diabetes because he is weak—and the same should be true of depression. Again, this is a disease, a mental health disorder that does not have anything to do with personal weakness. The way for men to be strong is to resolve to get better, rather than simply accepting it.
Men shouldn’t need to ask for help. There’s an old stereotype about men being unwilling to ask for directions, and maybe that applies here: Many men simply don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help when they need it. But of course, men would seek the help of a surgeon if they had a brain tumor, and it’s perfectly reasonable to seek help from a therapist or other medical professional when the symptoms of depression are noted.
Men should be able to control their own feelings. Depression is not a feeling. It’s not the same thing as being sad. It’s actually a mood disorder, and as such it’s not something that men can simply turn off or on. Recovery can provide tools for managing the symptoms of depression, but it’s never something men can just choose to control.
You can’t make depression go away by talking about it. Of course, you also can’t make depression go away by ignoring it; meanwhile, talking about your experiences actually can help, especially if you do so with a medical professional.
Admitting to depression creates a burden on loved ones. Your family members love you and want you to be healthy, and it’s not a burden on them for you to seek a treatment for your medical condition. The opposite is true, actually: It’s far more burdensome to live with an illness and refuse to get the help you need.
Get Help for Depression
The good news is that when you accept that you need help, treatment for depression can be exceedingly effective; in fact, it can mark the beginning of a fresh new chapter for you. Seek help for your depression symptoms today. Contact Alsana to ask about the mental health recovery services we provide.
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