Men and Eating Disorders

When it comes to eating disorders, you may be surprised to learn that these are conditions which are not confined to any one section of the population. Often considered as an illness affecting mainly females – and usually young women and girls – an eating disorder can affect anyone and of any age, including men.

It is estimated that 1.25 million people in the UK population (source: Beat UK) suffer from an eating disorder and that 25% of those are male.

In short, there are four main eating disorders:

  • anorexia nervosa – excessive dieting and exercise with an irrational fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, abuse of laxatives and vomiting;
  • bulimia – binge eating followed by purging of food;
  • binge-eating – excessive, compulsive eating with extreme weight gain;
  • orthorexia nervosa – not yet an officially recognised condition (but acknowledged by some health practitioners) characterised as an extreme obsession with the quality and purity of food and how it is sourced or prepared, leading to the exclusion of some food groups.

For some men, it may be difficult to come to terms with an eating disorder and admitting that they need help to overcome it, especially as eating disorders are (mistakenly) seen primarily as a ‘female illness’. An eating disorder can have the same detrimental effects on mental and physical health and on relationships regardless of whether you are male or female. It is therefore important that the right treatment is sought and as soon as possible before the illness becomes out of hand.

The tell-tale signs of an eating disorder can take many forms and may not be immediately apparent to those around as an indication that something is wrong. Even more so if the person with the eating disorder is male – because it’s not something people necessarily associate with men and it is a topic which is not often openly discussed.

Some of the signs that someone may be suffering from an eating disorder and to look out for include extreme loss or gain of weight, avoiding eating with others, frequent visits to the toilet just after eating, an obsession with appearance and looking in the mirror, wearing baggy clothing or clothing which hides the body – even in hot weather, an obsession with what is eaten and how it may affect the body and importantly appearance.

Eating disorders can have a number of causes which are also not necessarily unique to females. An eating disorder can run in families or be triggered by stress, low mood, poor body image, boredom, poor self-esteem or even past excess dieting. Sometimes an eating disorder can occur as a feature of another psychiatric condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, bulimia and ADHD, which may need treating in its own right.

Consultant psychiatrist, Dr Adrian Winbow explains the different types of eating disorder and how they can be treated in our series of videos. He and Prof Tony Hale regularly, successfully treat people – male and female – who are suffering from an eating disorder. If you or a loved one could benefit from their help, please get in touch.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is 2-8 March 2020

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