Eating disorder isn’t just women’s problem; identifying its signs in men

Eating disorder isn’t just women’s problem; identifying its signs in men

Although there is a general perception that eating disorders only afflict women, studies have proved that men are also vulnerable to the condition. Irrespective of whether it is due to the misogynistic views of the society or a swelling male ego, where men project themselves as superior to women, conditions like eating disorders do not discriminate. Rather than helping their cause, this kind of stereotyping inflicts more harm than doing any good to men. It only makes men hesitant to seek help for their problems, more specifically for mental illness.

Men need to understand the risk factors that put them at a substantial risk of distress. They should realize their vulnerability to depression, anxiety, suicide, or insecurities as women, and need considerable treatment to control manifestation of such illnesses. One such mental illness camouflaged by stereotypes and prejudices is eating disorder among males.

Destigmatizing male eating disorders

Eating disorders are not endemic to women. It is a mental disorder with a potential to affect anyone irrespective of gender, age, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. However, numerous factors stigmatize men to seek psychological help under the circumstance. Recent reports on eating disorders highlight its prevalence among adult men to 70 percent over the past six years, which is equivalent to increase among women.

Characterized as complex psychiatric syndromes, eating disorders can be potentially life-threatening. In eating disorders, medical and nutritional complications arise due to cognitive distraction related to food and body image, leading to distorted eating patterns. There are three types of eating disorders – anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), binge eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified.

Eating disorders have increasingly become a widespread problem in adolescents of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. However, the rate of occurrence is obscure due to gender biases. It is difficult to ascertain the cause of a surge in male eating disorders. Whether it is due to awareness of gender-neutral nature or more males are becoming susceptible to the disorder.

Age of onset and risk factors

While eating disorders are often perceived as a female illness, numerous analyses have found the prevalence of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa in a larger population among the male community and almost an equal number of males and females endure binge eating disorder.

Like any other mental illness, the onset of eating disorders also varies among different age groups, depending on the person’s genetic makeup, emotional strength, and the severity of past traumatic experiences, among others. However, the predomination of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa manifest during teenage years or the early twenties, while binge eating disorder crops up in mid-twenties.

Males are commonly believed to be obsessed with lean and muscular body. However, this is a misconception, particularly the importance of muscularity. Such misinterpreted notions heighten a concern for body image, and muscularity, thereby increasing the risk of distorted eating habits and unhealthy exercise patterns. Moreover, men with eating disorders often struggle with comorbid conditions like depression, excessive exercise, substance use disorders, and anxiety. Those in sports and entertainment industry have an increased vulnerability to eating disorders.

Recognizing warning signs can help in further treatment

Keeping abreast of the warning signs and acting on it accordingly can help in abating severity of the condition. There are numerous physical, psychological, and behavioral warning signs that can signal the onset of an eating disorder in a male or a female. However, there are some specific warning signs that are more common in males. These include:

  • Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting or muscle toning
  • Lifting weight even when injured
  • Lowered testosterone level
  • Anxiety or stress over missing workouts
  • Muscular weakness
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Using anabolic steroids

However, eating disorders are treatable. If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, get in touch with the Texas Mental Health Recovery Helpline to know more about mental health centers in Texas that offer long-term recovery. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (866) 596-4708 or chat online with one of our trained professionals to get details about the finest mental health treatment program in Texas.

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