Eating disorders in men can be a topic that is completely overlooked. However, in actual fact, 1 in 4 people with an eating disorder identify as male. Because eating disorder messaging often focuses on young (often white) women, anyone who doesn’t fit into this category can get overlooked. It is important to remember that anyone can have an eating disorder, regardless of age, gender or race.
In this blog we will look a the signs, symptoms and types of eating disorders that a man could suffer from.
Anorexia is a condition where people restrict their food and may engage in compensatory behaviours such as overexercising. Of all mental health conditions, it has the highest risk of death and therefore should be taken seriously and may require in-patient support. People with anorexia may experience body dysmorphia.
Anorexia can occur in all ages for men, and in fact may develop later in age than in women.
In men, anorexia can present slightly differently. There may be more of an exercise focus, with men aiming for the cultural ideal of a lean and muscular body. Social media and diet culture drives us towards unobtainable ideals, for men and women.
Statistics tell us that 25% of normal weight men see themselves as underweight and 90% of teenage boys are aiming to bulk up and build muscle.
Muscle dysmorphia can be a sign of anorexia in males. This is where men obsess about being muscular enough, spending hours in the gym, on supplements, eating abnormally and even using steroids to achieve their body ideal.
What increases the risk of anorexia in men?
Eating disorders are complex, and it can be difficult to pinpoint a set cause -for many people, there isn’t a single cause. Here are some risk factors that can increase the risk of how to become anorexic:
- Previous history of weight issues
- Mental health difficulties
- Body image pressure e.g. from peers or social media
- Substance abuse
- History of childhood trauma
- Participation in sport, particularly those that have a set body “type”
Other Eating Disorders in Men:
Men can suffer from other forms of eating disorders too, including binge eating disorder, bulimia, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder and even night eating syndrome. There is a whole spectrum of disordered eating habits that can also exist that may not meet the full criteria for an eating disorder but are just as important to get help for.
Bulimia in men can be a very hidden and secretive disorder. This is characterised with periods of restricting food intake and then periods of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time. There is usually a feeling of a loss of control around the binge. People may then try to compensate for the binges by eating less or exercising more.
Whereas, binge eating disorder is slightly different as there will be no periods of restriction of food or over-exercise to try and make up for the binges.
Symptoms of eating disorders in men to look out for:
There are some signs that you may notice in friends and family. If you are ever worried about someone then directing them to the GP, to the BEAT helpline and letting them know you accept them just the way they are all good starting points. It is so essential to get help as soon as possible, but not everyone is always ready for that help.
You can also book a consultation with me here.
Signs you may notice in a male with disordered eating/anorexia:
“Picky” eating if eating in company
Sudden change in weight or shape
Secretive eating, or avoiding eating in public
Increase in exercise sessions
Distress if exercise is missed
Increased focus on body appearance
Avoiding social situations
Using extra supplements, protein drinks and steroids
Replacing meals with protein shakes
Increase in exercise with a focus on bulking up
Using laxatives or diuretics