Historically, the focus on Eating Disorders and treatments has been focused on women, particularly young adolescent and young adult women. However, anyone who identifies with any gender or at any age can develop an Eating Disorder and deserves a treatment plan that is geared towards their needs.
Research has found that men make up an equal amount of Binge Eating Disorder cases, quarter of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa and approximately two-thirds of Restrictive or Avoidant Food Intake Disorder. However, men have also been underrepresented and under diagnosed due to stigma, lack of understanding from the individual or health practitioners and hesitancy to seek help.
How Eating Disorders in men often present differently than to women (but not always), with body image issues often manifesting for a more muscular focus rather lower body weight that is more common in women. This difference is likely due to the differences of idealised body standards in Australia.
There are various signs that may signify an eating disorder in men and this will be compared to how it may present in women:
- Exercise regimes/patterns that may be excessive and unhealthy
- Extreme focus on fitness for body image appearance and shape of body as well as sensitivity towards comments surrounding body image and food habits
- Constant and repetitive dieting especially when it does not ‘work’, this may include excessive food planning or preparation that is disruptive as well as binge eating or purging.
- Fear of gaining or losing weight as well as taking extreme behaviours to attempt to gain muscle or lose body fat
- Development or increased presentation of ‘one of the other thinking’ – this is an idealised thinking of foods, exercises or body presentation being perceived as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This thinking can be particularly harmful and does not account that some items hold different purposes (e.g. some foods may be more pleasure based and some may be more nutrition based).
Treatment for eating disorders in men may vary in comparison to women. This may involve challenging beliefs of what is masculinity and what is a masculine body, this may be especially prevalent for individuals who excessive exercise or athletes.
Treatment teams need to consider the stigma surrounding men and eating disorders and how men communicate may present differently.
However, seeking treatment as a man and as a woman are both effective and is the possibility for recovery. If concerned about self or a loved one there are many fantastic resources such as Butterfly foundation, EDFA Australia and reaching out to your health practitioner.
Butterfly Foundation: https://butterfly.org.au/
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Sources used in creating this article:
Eating Disorders Victoria. Eating Disorders in men and boys
National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Eating Disorders in Males