Eating disorders, including bulimia and anorexia, are typically associated with women. However, the number of men dealing with this serious health issue is significant and is increasing. Anorexia in men is a major concern, but there is help for men with anorexia.
A Serious Health Condition
Anorexia is a potentially life threatening eating disorder. An individual with anorexia will severely restrict his food intake to the point where he suffers from nutritional deficiencies that can create major complications for his physical health. This may be done as an attempt to help manage emotional challenges the individual is experiencing, which can also be an issue for his mental health.
In fact, anorexia nervosa is considered to be a serious mental health condition and is often accompanied by other issues such as depression and anxiety. The condition generally involves an unrealistic body image for the individual as well as an exaggerated fear of gaining weight.
Affects Any Sex or Gender
Although typically thought of an issue that affects women, anorexia can affect anyone of any gender or sex. In fact, men represent about a fourth of the people who have been diagnosed with anorexia. The effects of the condition are more likely to be life threatening for men than for women, primarily because men will typically seek treatment much later, if at all.
Eating disorders will affect about 10 million males in the US at some point in their lives. However, men are much less likely to seek help in large part because of cultural bias. Men are largely undiagnosed as they face the double stigma of seeking psychological treatment and of having an eating disorder. Assessments tests for the condition are often geared toward women as well, which also leads to misconceptions about the nature of eating disorders among men.
A Growing Concern
Studies that have compared data over a 10-year period found that the rate of extreme dieting, or anorexia, and purging, or bulimia, have increased at a faster rate in men than in women. Men generally are also dealing with other conditions such as depression, anxiety, compulsive exercise, and substance abuse, along with their eating disorder.
Anorexia often begins to appear in a young man’s teenage years or early adulthood. The health risks and life threatening aspect of this illness can be much more severe in men, as they continue to resist diagnosis and treatment through their early years and into adulthood. The hesitation and stigma associated with the eating disorder can create a snowball effect in men.
If a man with anorexia does not seek care, his symptoms can become increasingly worse. Since men are generally under-represented in the medical literature regarding eating disorders, there can also be a lack of awareness or knowledge about the potentially devastating effects. Anorexia has one of the highest mortality and suicide rates of any psychiatric disorder, as about 10.5% of those individuals who are diagnosed with the condition may die because of their illness.
Recognition and Treatment are Critical
Recognizing the symptoms of anorexia in men is critical to the health and well-being of the individual suffering from the condition. He may be working out excessively, in an attempt to improve his body image, while also eating very little, even adhering to certain restrictive fad diets. He may be constantly weight himself or checking his appearance in a mirror. He may also withdraw from or avoid completely any social gatherings involving food.
Anorexia involves a range of emotional and psychological challenges that can be difficult for an individual to overcome on his own. For the individual’s mental and physical health, it is critical that he seek out professional treatment. Particularly since the risk of mortality for men with eating disorders is higher for men than it is for women, it is imperative to overcome the stigma and get help.
Help for Men with Anorexia
A gender-sensitive approach to address anorexia in men recognizes the different needs and dynamics involved for males. An all-male environment is particularly helpful for those individuals who may feel uncomfortable discussing their situation in a program that includes women. Understanding the need to overcome the stereotypes and stigma is best addressed in a gender-sensitive setting.
Support for Men at PACE Recovery
Eating disorders can negatively impact your physical and mental health and may lead to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. At PACE Recovery, we offer gender-specific treatment options to optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and mental health issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.
The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.