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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.

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Eating Disorders in Older Women on the Rise

Statistics can be somewhat ambiguous when it comes to eating disorders. Over the years, there have been countless studies conducted surrounding the prevalence of illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Although many of these studies convey slightly different findings, one thing is certain: Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders.

While the majority of eating disorder sufferers are young women and adolescent girls, research has discovered that more and more males — an estimated 10 to 15 percent — are struggling with eating disorders as well. Additionally, incidents of these disorders in older women have been on a steady incline in recent years.

Why the Upward Trend?

New information is surfacing in regard to women in their 40s, 50s and 60s maintaining a negative body image, and as a result, continuing unhealthy eating patterns or developing eating disorders. Recent studies have found that over 60 percent of women 50 years of age and older are acutely concerned about their weight. Roughly 13 percent of these women suffer from some type of eating disorder.

Some older women keep their eating-related struggles hidden for years. Others, after having addressed an eating disorder earlier in life to at least some degree, relapse as they approach middle age. There are of course a variety of other factors that may contribute to the development of eating disorders in middle-aged women. These include a divorce or the loss of a mate where a woman feels she needs to lose weight to regain a level of attractiveness. It’s also not out of the question for a woman to develop an eating disorder for the first time later in life.

Never Too Late to Begin Treatment

Regardless of age or gender, anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and treatment methods for other eating-related illnesses have evolved throughout the years. The percentage of successful outcomes continues to increase. Treatment for eating disorders usually consists of a combination of nutritional counseling, individual or group therapy, and in many cases, medications.

With the discovery of eating disorders in so many older women, mental health professionals are realizing that life-long care may be required even after a young woman has shown significant signs of recovery. However, those who get help for eating disorders early do have the best chance at long-term recovery.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Eating Disorders and the Psychology Behind Them

Millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders in various forms. Although eating disorders overwhelmingly affect girls and women, males are certainly not immune to these potentially deadly mental health conditions.

The three major types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. Anorexia is basically an obsession with thinness where the sufferer will severely limit their food intake. Bulimia is characterized by eating large quantities of food, then afterwards attempting to offset the effects of mass caloric consumption through actions such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise and the taking of laxatives. Binge eating is compulsive overeating with an inability to gain control during periods of consumption, which vary in duration.

What’s Beneath the Surface?

A variety of circumstances can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Studies have indicated that genetics may play a role in many cases. But aside from pre-existing anxiety or mood disorders, cultural and other psychological factors are often at the heart of abnormal eating habits and full-blown eating disorders.

In a society that conveys a thin-is-attractive message, many girls and women feel pressured to lose weight or remain slim. In order to accomplish this, they will often cultivate unhealthy eating habits that can eventually lead to serious health problems, or worse.

A distorted body image is one major psychological issue that many who develop eating disorders struggle with. This is a situation where an individual — despite their actual physique — will see themselves as much larger than they truly are.

Efforts to Heal

The first order of business in anorexia cases is to restore the patient’s weight to a healthy level. But in all eating disorders cases, the chief goals of therapy are to help patients adjust their habits and belief systems as well as establish a healthier view of themselves and a more realistic overall outlook.

Anorexia treatment, bulimia treatment and the treatment of binge eating disorders usually begins with some form of psychotherapy or “talk” therapy. This is often done in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapies. For more severe cases, eating disorders treatment centers are located throughout the country where a patient can be monitored, receive proper nutrition and nutritional counseling as well as have medications administered to them, if deemed necessary.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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Depression: When Feelings go beyond “Normal” Sadness

Sadness is a normal emotion that can be caused by negative or painful circumstances. Occasional periods of unhappiness are a part of life, and most people are able to eventually process their feelings of melancholy and forge ahead. But when sadness lingers or becomes a state in which there seems to be no escape, it is very likely that some type of depression exists.

The Symptoms of Depression

Depression can come in many forms, from relatively mild to severe. Some of the causes can be biological, environmental or genetic in nature. Grief, illness and addictions can be other factors.

On the mild side, symptoms can range from irritability, a lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, disrupted sleep patterns and difficulty focusing and concentrating. More severe symptoms include hopelessness, despair, extreme fatigue and suicidal thoughts. Some depression symptoms are rather complex and can be a part of other mood disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse problems or some other mental health issue.

Depression Treatment

Everyone responds differently to various treatment methods. But treatment for clinical depression usually begins with some form of “talk therapy” with a mental health professional. From there, the best course of action may involve medications and additional levels of therapy such as cognitive behavioral and psychodynamic therapies.

In some cases of major depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT therapy) or transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS therapy) are used where all other approaches to treatment have failed. Although depression treatment techniques continue to evolve, many of the methods in place today have proven to be successful in helping those suffering with this illness get back on their feet and live productive and satisfying lives.

 

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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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.

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This blog is written and published by Lindner Center of HOPE.

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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.

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Chronic Stress Can Take a Toll on One’s Mental Well-Being

Stress is a normal reaction to situations and frustrations that we occasionally experience during the course of our lives. Career concerns, deadlines, financial troubles and kid-related issues can all cause us moments of worry and degrees of anxiety. Normal stress can also be beneficial to us in some ways. For instance, it heightens our awareness in dangerous situations and boosts our ability to perform in an athletic endeavor.

But when feelings of apprehension and distress become perpetual, and there aren’t many moments in a day when we’re not feeling stressed or anxious, it can eventually wear us down and have a negative impact on our health. Stress can affect us both physically and mentally. Some of the physical manifestations of stress are tension, an elevated heartbeat, sweatiness and an upset stomach. Continuous stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart problems.

The Effects of Chronic Stress on Mental Health

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a well-known condition in which a traumatic event or the circumstances surrounding that event can cause recurring bouts of extreme stress. But constant, long-term stress can also have devastating consequences if not properly addressed.

Many people with chronic stress are unaware that the almost ceaseless worry and anxiety in their everyday lives may be turning into a deeper issue. They may feel that stress is just a part of their daily existence, and that the irritability, forgetfulness, trouble sleeping and fatigue, among other symptoms that can accompany chronic stress, simply come along with it.

However, “nervous breakdowns” or the development of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sleep disorders, panic attacks and clinical depression that can result from persistent, long-term stress are serious conditions which require proper mental health treatment. This may consist of learning techniques to better manage and alleviate stress, or, depending on the severity of the situation, may involve psychotherapy and medication.

If there are indications that an individual may be experiencing chronic stress and they are beginning to show signs that there may be worse problems on the horizon, it’s time for them to get help. They shouldn’t hesitate to consult with a professional at one of their local mental health centers and begin to learn how to achieve some peace in their lives and get themselves back on track.

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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.

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February Highlights Eating Disorders Awareness Week – An Evening With An Eating Disorders Expert Panel

Mason, Ohio—February 2, in honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Lindner Center of HOPE will join with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute to offer an Evening with an Eating Disorders Expert Panel. The panel will consist of nationally recognized Eating Disorders experts and offer an opportunity for primary care physicians, mental health specialists, school counselors, coaches and family members to learn about the emotional and health consequences affecting over 11 million individuals.

Eating Disorders are biologically based, devastating illnesses that can have potentially life-threatening consequences. They affect a person’s emotional and physical health, productivity and relationships. The panel presentation is part of the Harold C. Schott Foundation Eating Disorders Program at Lindner Center of HOPE’s monthly health series.

Compared with other mental illnesses, eating disorders represent the highest rate of mortality. And to make it more challenging, its identification and treatment can be challenging. Research has shown that with psychiatric management, psychotherapy, nutritional services, and family engagement, success can be experienced. “A coordinated approach to care can return patients, and their loved ones, to more fulfilling lives,” says Scott Bullock, MSW, LISW-S, Family Therapist and Eating Disorders Intake Coordinator at Lindner Center of HOPE.  Bullock says to look for these signs indicating a person may be suffering with an eating disorder:

  • Preoccupation with body shape and/or weight
  • Weight disturbances or unexplained weight changes (underweight, overweight or obese)
  • Hoarding high-calorie food
  • Obsession with diets, calories, food, or nutrition
  • Compulsive eating, binge eating, or inability to stop eating
  • Frequent rigorous dieting, regardless of body weight
  • Compulsively arranging food and/or cutting into tiny pieces
  • Eating alone or late night eating
  • Taking laxatives or diet pills or excessive exercising to prevent weight gain
  • Avoiding eating in public and social situations that involve food
  • Repeatedly going to the bathroom shortly after meals
  • Regular fasting

An Evening with an Eating Disorders Panel of Experts

February 2, 2012; 6:30pm-7:45pm

Harold C. Schott Eating Disorders Treatment Team:

Anne Marie O’Melia, MD, MS, Medical Director

Scott Bullock, MSW, LISW-S, Family Therapist & Intake Coordinator

Sarah Arszman Lavanier, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Tracy Early, BA, Med, Group Curriculum Specialist

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center:

Laurie Mitan, MD, Director, Eating Disorders Program

Abbey Tissot, PhD

Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute

Ann Kerney- Cooke, PhD, Director and national best-selling author

For more information contact: scott.bullock@lindnercenter.org.

March Event:

March 1, 2012, 6:30pm-7:45pm

Ellen Young, Dietician & Jessica Barth, Dieticians, Harold C. Schott Foundation Eating Disorders Program at Lindner Center of HOPE

The Role of Nutritional Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment