Women and Eating Disorders

We hear a fair amount in the media about women and eating disorders these days, but many people do not realize that the eating disorders women sometimes suffer can also be found in men. Eating disorders are on the rise these days, and they are seen in both men and women. It’s important to understand that eating disorders can occur in both young and adult women and eating disorders can occur in males of all ages, as well. Even young children can develop eating disorders, although such disorders occur more commonly in adolescents and young adults.

Causes of Eating Disorders

While the symptoms of eating disorders may be similar in both men and women, the causes of the eating disorders women suffer are sometimes different than the causes of the eating disorders men suffer. It’s important to understand that eating disorders are complex conditions and it’s often impossible to trace the origin of an eating disorder back to one specific cause. Often a combination of factors leads to the development of an eating disorder.

When speaking about women and eating disorders, the first thing many people think of is the influence of the popular media on women. Many of the images of women seen in the media these days show very thin women with perfect features. We are told that’s what is attractive. It is implied that only women that fit this image can be happy and successful in their lives. The media does influence men as well, but media images of men are often at least a little more realistic than those of women. It’s easier for men to measure up.

The media is not the only cause of the eating disorders women suffer, of course. Women, as well as men, maybe believe that becoming thin will help them find a spouse or improve their marriages, help them get a good job and so on. Some develop eating disorders in later life following divorce or after their children all leave home.

Sometimes the eating disorders seen in women and eating disorders found in men stem from a need to have some control over the lives of those suffering the disorders. When they feel out of control or feel that they don’t have choices in their lives, food may serve as one thing they can control.

The eating disorders women suffer are often believed to stem, at least in part, from childhood abuse, particularly sexual abuse. Men also sometimes develop eating disorders after suffering abuse, but this is something found more commonly in women.

Both the eating disorders women suffer and those suffered by men usually develop as a coping skill in people that lack more healthful, effective coping skills. They manage stress by restricting calories, binging and purging, or eating compulsively. A significant component of any treatment program must involve learning new coping skills.

Here is more information about eating disorders in older women.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Much of the process for treating eating disorders in women and eating disorders in men is the same. Some treatment programs treat both men and women but some treat only women. Since eating disorders are less common in men, there are few programs that treat only men. There are also some programs that focus on children or adolescents, while others treat patients of all ages.

Treatment must address the causes of eating disorders as well as well as teaching patients new coping skills. Treatment must also include medical care and nutritional counseling.

If you have an eating disorder, or think you might have one, seek professional help right away. You don’t have to continue suffering. There is help available and you deserve to have a happy, healthy life.

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Written by: Colleen Thompson