Despite the widespread misconception that eating disorders only affect women, the National Eating Disorders Association reports that 10 million American men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Though these disorders are treatable, many men who develop disordered eating patterns do not receive the help they need to get better. What constitutes male eating disorders, and how do men struggle with these issues differently than women?
What Are Male Eating Disorders?
The most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has refined how it defines disordered eating behaviors to give mental health professionals a common ground for diagnosing these issues. Though the DSM has included eating disorders for more than four decades, the DSM-5 now features eight separate categories of eating and feeding disorders.
Due to deeply ingrained gender biases, men may be less likely to seek treatment for disordered eating, or they might have trouble receiving an accurate diagnosis because the assessment tools health professionals use better reflect women’s symptoms by design. Toxic masculinity also plays a role, in that boys and men grappling with these issues might be a target of bullying for having a condition widely perceived as “womanly.”
Body dysmorphia is a characteristic of eating disorders across gender identities. However, while men may be just as likely as women to pursue an unrealistic, media-driven body ideal, beauty standards for men typically emphasize having prominently defined muscles. Men’s disordered eating patterns may begin with a desire to bulk up, which could then become a compulsion to follow a specific diet, take various supplements and force themselves to work out even when they are sick or injured.
Male Eating Disorders Are Severe Conditions
Don’t brush off an eating disorder as a “fad diet” or a “health craze” that will go away on its own. Someone living with an eating disorder has a serious, complex condition with far-reaching ramifications on their physical and emotional well-being. The long-term effects of an eating disorder can be life-threatening, including malnutrition and even organ failure.
Though the behavioral warning signs of male eating disorders can vary by the individual and the type of disorder he has, here are some general things to look for.
- Fixation on meticulously counting or documenting calories, fats, sugars and carbs
- Skipping meals entirely, or only eating tiny amounts
- Preoccupation with weighing himself and checking for flaws in the mirror
- Cutting out entire food groups to lose more weight
- Desire for perfection
- Compulsively binge-eating to the point of having a stomachache or even feeling nauseated
- Low self-esteem and distorted body image
- Having unrealistic expectations for what diet and exercise can help him achieve
- Fasting in hopes of losing weight more quickly
- Preoccupation with working out and weightlifting
- Abuse of steroids or other substances to help gain muscle
- Being harshly judgmental about his appearance
If you notice a loved one exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should seek professional treatment immediately. The earlier you get help, the higher the chances he will make a complete physical and mental recovery.
Men’s Rehab Treatment in Newport Beach
At Pillars Recovery, we provide gender-specific treatment that helps men break the stigma of asking for help and getting support. It is a safe, judgment-free environment where young men aged 21 to 25 can build a circle of trust and begin to rebuild their lives. We will tailor a treatment plan that helps you address unresolved mental health issues and move forward with confidence. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.