What Everyone Should Know About Eating Disorders in Men

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Earlier this week, I highlighted Zayn Malik’s recent interviews where he has gone into depth about his experience with disordered eating. But, of course, Malik is far from the only man to be affected by eating disorders or disordered eating.

Approximately 10 million American men live with a diagnosable eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Unfortunately, a large number of men affected by eating disorders struggle in silence, ashamed of telling someone they struggle with something thought to be a “girl’s problem.”

The stigma and stereotypes surrounding eating disorders hide the reality that eating disorders are a serious health issue that affect people of all genders, race, and age. To help highlight this, today I thought I’d share a few little-known facts about eating disorders in men.

Some Disordered Eating Behaviors Are Increasing Among Men Faster Than Women

While most studies suggest that approximately twice as many women live with an eating disorder than men. However, there are signs that some specific disordered eating behaviors are increasing faster among men. For example, a study comparing data collected in 1998 and 2008 showed that purging and extreme dieting were increasing at a faster rate among men compared to women.

Eating Disorders May Affect Men At Different Ages

While eating disorders can strike at any time, there are specific age periods where the risk is highest. For example, women face the highest risk during their teenage years. However, a study that followed over 13,000 young people found that men may be at a higher risk in their early 20’s.

Eating Disorders Rarely Exist In a Vacuum

It is possible that a person could develop an eating disorder without any other existing mental health issues, but that is often not the case. As the NEDA explains, men with eating disorders frequently face other mental health issues such as substance abuse, depression, or anxiety.

Disordered Eating May Look Different In Men

Some signs of eating disorders are the same among men and women, but the disordered eating doesn’t always look the same across genders. As Stephanie Zerwas, Ph.D., tells Health, men who live with eating disorders may appear to be preoccupied with appearing “cut or ripped.”

Zerwas, clinical director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, says men “may get into dangerous cycles of bulking and shredding that might resemble a binge/purge cycle in women.”

Making matters worse, these behaviors are often supported by others. “Those types of behaviors are often really encouraged in gyms and by trainers, and it can be dangerous for men to hear how ‘great’ they look from their friends or loved ones.”

There’s No Weakness in Seeking Help

There may be many differences in eating disorders among men and women, but there is one thing that is guaranteed to be universal: there’s nothing wrong with asking for help or support. Eating disorders are an illness that affect millions of people across the country, but there is always hope for recovery if you’re able to reach out and ask. As Zerwas says, “asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of incredible strength and courage.”

If you think you or someone you know show any of these signs of living with an eating disorder, call us at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and see if treatment is right for you.

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