Eating Disorders and Males: Understanding the Problem
While eating disorders are typically associated with young women, you may be surprised to learn that a growing number of individuals with eating disorders today are young men.
Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Males
Approximately 10% of individuals seeking treatment for eating disorders are male, although a larger number fails to seek treatment. The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that about 10 million U.S. males will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives – about one third of the total of 30 million individuals facing this illness.
While males are more reluctant to seek treatment, the number getting help is growing. One recent estimate: the number of males hospitalized for an eating disorder has risen more than 50% over the past decade. This increase may be due to greater willingness to report a problem, but may also represent a larger number of males who develop eating disorders.
Types of Eating Disorders in Males
Boys and men suffer from the same types of eating disorders as females, as well as one type less common in girls or women. Disorders include:
- Binge eating disorder. Characterized by episodes of compulsive or “binge” eating, this disorder is the most common type of eating disorder among males.
- Bulimia nervosa. Characterized by binge eating, followed by one or more purging methods (vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, etc.), this disorder represents an attempt to avoid weight gain after over-eating.
- Anorexia nervosa. Characterized by a refusal to maintain normal body weight and an intense fear of gaining weight, along with severe body image distortion, this disorder causes individuals to literally starve themselves.
- Muscle dysmorphia. Characterized by an extreme desire to become more muscular, this disorder is primarily associated with males. Some individuals with this disorder want to “bulk up” to gain body mass, while others try to lose weight to reduce their percentage of body fat vs. muscle. Excessive steroid use is often associated with this disorder.
Treatment Issues for Males
Many treatment issues are similar for all individuals, regardless of gender, such as problems with body image and self-esteem or a need to exert control in one’s life, albeit in a dysfunctional manner.
However, males may also face special issues in treatment, such as:
- Increased stigma. Because eating disorders are so closely associated with young women, males may be subject to ridicule by their peers, or may fear discovery of their problem. Such factors decrease the likelihood of males seeking treatment.
- Severity of the disorder. Because young men are less comfortable seeking treatment and less likely to be identified by others as having a problem, their cases may be particularly severe by the time they do finally seek help.
- Issues with sexuality. Approximately 42% of males with eating disorders also identify themselves as being gay. Does the emphasis on physical fitness and lean musculature in parts of the gay culture and media make young gay men more vulnerable to the development of eating disorders? Mental health professionals aren’t certain, but must be prepared to address issues of sexuality with young male patients.
Treatment can as beneficial for males as females, once they seek help in a program that is sensitive to their specific needs. Common treatments include medication, such as antidepressants, and psychotherapy – often cognitive or behavioral therapies. Treatment is frequently most effective with peers in a group setting, with the level of treatment needed based upon the severity of the condition.
Early identification of eating disorders in males is the key to the best recovery.
Eating Disorders Treatment: A Variety of Circumstances Can Lead to Binge Eating
Eating disorders come in many forms and can affect people regardless of their age, gender or background. Food and eating-related disorders can stem from various causes, including a distorted body image, societal pressures and other existing mental health issues.
Although binge eating may not receive the same publicity as eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, it is prevalent within our society, affecting millions of Americans across a wide demographic.
Binge Eating Disorder Causes
Just about everyone overeats now and then. The holidays are notorious for heaping platefuls of food and second helpings, and people who experience trauma in their lives sometimes turn to food for comfort.
But binge eating crosses over into the territory of a “disorder” or “mental illness” when an individual feels powerless to stop binging episodes. The exact causes of this condition are not always clear. But underlying issues with anxiety, depression or an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are often contributing factors. Binge eating is also a symptom of bulimia.
Binge Eating Disorders Treatment
If left untreated, it is likely the psychological aspects of this disorder will worsen. Additionally, the physical health of the binge eater may eventually be in jeopardy as the risk factors are high for conditions such as obesity and diabetes. The fact that sufferers of this disorder often hide it from those around them may also complicate matters and delay them from getting help.
The approach to binge eating treatment is similar to depression treatment. Because every case is different, treatment is tailored to meet the needs of a particular individual.
Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are most often part of the treatment picture. These methods attempt to lay bare the origins of the binge eater’s behavior, address and change destructive behavior patterns and teach healthy coping skills. Anti-depressant medications may also come into play within a comprehensive strategy to help those with binge eating disorders move forward with their lives and develop a healthier outlook.
This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.
Eating Disorders are Treatable, But Don’t Wait to Get Help
An eating disorder is a mental illness that often includes stark physical manifestations. For instance, those suffering with anorexia tend to become emaciated and bone-thin; whereas bulimics can actually maintain or even gain weight. This is largely due to the binge eating habits of bulimics, which usually involves a massive caloric intake that is then purged.
Purging food via self-induced vomiting or consumption of laxatives is a symptom shared by both the bulimic and anorexic. There are other similarities in symptoms between the two diseases, including exercising excessively and a distorted body image. However, the fear of weight gain causes anorexics to severely limit their food intake as opposed to the bulimic habit of purging after binging large amounts of food.
Help for Eating Disorders
The longer one waits to be treated for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, the greater the chances that permanent or fatal damage to the body will occur. Eating disorders studies reveal that muscle loss, bone deterioration and the weakening of just about every organ in the body will become increasingly significant as these diseases continue to run their course.
Therefore, it is imperative that bulimia treatment, anorexia treatment and treatment of other types of eating disorders be started as soon as these conditions are verified. Eating disorder clinics and eating disorder treatment centers around the country have experienced mental health professionals on staff who are better equipped than ever before to administer to those suffering from eating disorder-related illnesses.
Eating disorder treatment often encompasses various types of psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and might also include family therapy sessions. Nutritional counseling and a focus on weight restoration are also part of a comprehensive eating disorder treatment program that can eventually give those affected the tools to move forward and live fulfilling lives.
Eating Disorder Treatment Involves Changing Behavior Patterns
Although there are differences between the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, they do share some of the same characteristics. Among other similarities, individuals who suffer with these disorders generally have an unfavorable view of their own bodies.
The fear of becoming overweight or the perception that one is overweight — even if they are not — are major psychological factors behind the development of these and other eating disorders. Individuals with these disorders are driven to engage in one or more of the following practices: self-induced vomiting after eating, purging, excessive exercise, disproportionate use of laxatives and periods of not eating.
It has been well documented that the major demographic of those with eating disorders are teenage girls. However, it is now common knowledge that these disorders do not discriminate. Adult men and women as well as males in their late teens also struggle with eating disorders.
Eating Disorder Treatment: Emphasis on Behavioral Adjustments
In addition to the deep-seeded psychological aspects of eating disorders that can lead to depression and other mood disorders, the physical ramifications can be devastating and even deadly. The bones and teeth may suffer due to the body not absorbing or maintaining a healthy amount of nutrients. A host of other issues such as a loss of muscle, anemia and organ damage may result from the unhealthy habits that those with eating disorders have developed.
Anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and the treatment of eating disorders often requires a multifaceted approach. Not only must a patient be nurtured back to physical health, but the psychological aspect of these disorders must be addressed through intensive psychotherapy.
One of the most effective modes of psychotherapeutic treatment for eating disorders has proven to be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In those with eating disorders, CBT focuses on areas such as improving self-esteem and developing a more realistic body image. This therapy works to redirect the “rules” these individuals have established in regard to eating habits.
Some of the nation’s leading eating disorder treatment centers such as Lindner Center of Hope’s Sibcy House near Cincinnati, Ohio incorporate CBT into their treatment plan. It is part of a well-rounded program that has helped many eating disorders patients change destructive habits and develop a healthier outlook on life.
Mental Health Treatment Centers Offer a Wide Variety of Services
Over 45 million Americans have some form of mental illness. Roughly 25 percent of these individuals have disorders considered to be serious, according to a recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study. With the number of Americans suffering from mental illness and substance abuse problems on the rise, caregivers and treatment facilities throughout the country continue to work to meet increasing demands.
One way this troubling trend is being addressed is through the creation of comprehensive mental health treatment centers. In recent years more focus has been placed upon the consolidation of mental health services that were once spread throughout a city or region.
Mental Health Centers are All-Encompassing
Many of the newer mental health centers are universal in their offerings. They provide inpatient and outpatient services for a wide range of mental health issues and are staffed with a diverse array of experienced therapists and psychiatric specialists.
These types of facilities will often contain separate areas for children, adolescents and adults. ADHD treatment, adolescent depression treatment, eating disorder treatment and treatment for anxiety and bipolar disorders are among the services that can be performed under one roof.
Some mental health centers also contain short-term residential units, such as Lindner Center of Hope’s “Sibcy House” near Cincinnati, Ohio. Sibcy House staff members specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of those with complex mental disorders, addictive disorders and those who have experienced a mental health crisis.
The Lindner facility is also one of the few mental health centers in the country to offer both ECT and TMS treatment. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are used in severe depression treatment and to address conditions for other types of treatment that have failed. These devices are located in Lindner’s new state-of-the-art Neuromodulation Center.
The centralization of services in modern-day mental health centers has been a positive development in a number of ways, including making treatment more accessible to patients and communication between caregivers more convenient. This is especially the case in situations where multiple modes of treatment may be necessary.