Eating disorders have traditionally been considered women’s problems, but more men with anorexia are coming forward. Of the 70,000 plus people suffering with this condition, male anorexia accounts for 10%. Of that 10 percent, 20% are homosexuals and 80% are heterosexual.
Some experts on the subject believe that percentage is under estimated because for a long time men with anorexia weren’t being diagnosed effectively. Men are targeted by weight loss products, which is a possible cause of male anorexia. Nonetheless the newness of that demographic hasn’t helped diagnosis. Also, men with anorexia are more hesitant to seek help because of social stigmatizing.
Why and When?
Like women, men with anorexia typically develop the problem in their late teens. Sometimes it begins with trying to “buff up”, and sometimes it begins with peer pressure and taunting. Other causes include family trauma, media depictions, and parents with eating disorders. No matter the originating cause, there’s only one thing that seems to separate men from women: namely while women generally focus on being thin, men focus on muscles.
Men who have to maintain low weight for sports run a high risk for male anorexia. Additionally, as with women, men who have a poor self-image, depressive disorders, and high stress are far more susceptible to eating disorders. Beyond that, our society isn’t as critical of men eating heavily as it is women, and many men grow up believing that anorexia only happens to women, so it often takes longer to recognize an eating disorder.
Anorexia in men is likely to be missed by health care providers, who often mistakenly believe that men don’t get eating disorders. Even when the disorder is recognized, men with anorexia have far fewer resources (like support groups) from which to choose. They may also have trouble finding a health care provider that is experienced in treating anorexia in men. This is important because the treatment for anorexia in men differs from that of anorexic women.
Signs of Anorexia in Men
Some of the telltale signs of male anorexia include:
- Being severely underweight
- Intense, compulsive exercise
- Severe dieting (or self starvation)
- Constantly taking body measurements
- Purging with laxatives or diuretics
- Over-use of diet pills
- Decreased interest in sex
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Depression or moodiness
- Hair loss
- Exhaustion or lethargy
- Becoming annoyed or even angry when questioned about their weight or eating habits
Effects of Anorexia in Men
There are dangers to men whose anorexia goes untreated. Women have more fat to burn. That means the male anorexic burns muscle faster, which can have severe, long-term effects even if the person begins eating healthily again.
In addition to muscle loss, men with anorexia may experience low blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart failure. Male anorexia also causes loss of bone density (making brittle bones), weakness, dehydration (which can potentially lead to kidney failure) and hair loss. Up to 20% of the people who develop anorexia nervosa will die from the on-going overall decline in bodily health.
If you think you or someone you know is developing an eating disorder, it’s vital to get help as soon as possible. Untreated eating disorders can affect your health for a very long time after you overcome the initial condition. There are a variety of therapy styles to consider from behavioral to group therapy. Additionally sufferers will need to make lifestyle changes that support a positive self-image. Seek out a mental health professional with experience in treating anorexia, and also consult with a nutritionist that can help craft healthy, rejuvenating menus and teach you about good eating habits.