Eating Disorders Are Not Gender Specific

Published: 28th January 2009
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Recent studies have shown that eating disorders among males are much more prevalent than previously believed. Although there are still more female sufferers, these latest findings are disturbing, particularly to parents of male children.

It is also believed that males are less likely to seek treatment than females. This may be a result of too many decades of brainwashing about men being tough and therefore not needing help.

Eating disorders are the same in male or female sufferers in terms of symptoms and state of mind. Both show a history of the following:

• Anxiety,

• Depression,

• Phobias,

• Panic disorder, and

• Dependence on drugs and/or alcohol

Both sexes show similar levels of unhappiness with their lives.

Although many people believe eating disorders to be a result of the media's portrayal of beautiful models, this is not the main issue. The main issue is about self esteem rather than food. Most sufferers of these eating disorders have an undervalued sense of their real self.

Unfortunately, eating disorders sometimes go unnoticed in males because a very thin man can still have muscle mass. This fact makes it even more dangerous in males because when they've reached the lowest weight ranges, they've lost more muscle and tissue.

The misconceptions that surround eating disorders in males often stop males from getting much needed treatment. The fact that it is seen by society as a 'female problem' and that males don't have a problem with those things makes many male sufferers feel ashamed and uncomfortable about seeking help.

There is a profound stigma around eating disorders and this is particularly so in males. Many people think that males with eating disorders are homosexual while the truth is that around eighty percent of male sufferers are heterosexual.

Also, cessation of menstruation has been a fundamental measure of anorexia. Therefore, by these criteria, it would be impossible for a male to have anorexia.

Men see being fat as weak, unmanly, and disgusting. For this reason, they often go into rigid exercise routines, becoming obsessed with the need to keep going, no matter how thin they become.

Because males and females have different preoccupations with body image, treatment needs are different for both sexes. One has to wonder if the medical professions know how to respond to these differences.

One sign of a male eating disorder is an obsession with body shape and weight as well as compulsive exercising and using lots of bulk-up products.

He may also be restricting foods or purging after eating. He may also be taking laxatives or diuretics or using diet pills to lose weight even if he is already slim.

In both genders, anorexia and bulimia are characterized by the following signs:

• Excessive fear of becoming fat

• Compulsive living patterns

• Self-induced starvation

The three main types of eating disorder for both males and females are:

• Anorexia nervosa

• Bulimia nervosa

• Binge eating disorder

Men who are involved in competitive sports where body weight and shape is important are more prone to fall victim to an eating disorder.

The first step in overcoming an eating disorder is admitting that you have a problem and talking to a professional about it.

Also, get help from a nutritionist to plan a healthy diet that will assist in developing healthy eating habits.

Anne is a woman who has worked primarily within health and welfare for around 35 years. However, since she was only a child, she has loved to research and write on a wide variety of interests. Feel free to visit Anne's websites at or or

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