Do Eating Disorders Affect Many *Males?
*Males: anyone identifying as male
It is difficult to determine how many females actually experience persistent and debilitating eating and food difficulties, or an eating disorder. We will never know the exact extent of this problem for various reasons. However, this partly due to the secretive nature of eating disorders and the high level of denial often involved, especially during the first few stages of the illness.
To determine how many males actually experience food and eating difficulties is an even more difficult task. The concept of ‘male eating disorders’ is still somewhat new in many ways and there is a long way to go to increase awareness of male eating disorders, let alone determine how many males actually experience food and eating problems. This, however, influences things further down the line: if we don’t increase awareness of male eating disorders successfully, fewer men will acknowledge they have a problem, fewer will come forward and present to support, therapeutic, psychological or medical services, and the likelihood of knowing how many men actually experience eating disorders will diminish. The ability to develop appropriate services, support and training associated with male eating disorders will also be uncertain. So, really, everything is interlinked. We need to increase awareness of male eating disorders to ensure more men come forward and then when can start to determine the epidemiology of male eating disorders and further develop and offer services, support and training specific to males.
Males are thought to account for approximately 10-20% of all cases of eating disorders. Among individuals in treatment, males account for 5-10% of individuals with Anorexia Nervosa, 10-15% of individuals with Bulimia Nervosa and 40% of individuals with Binge-Eating Disorder. Due to the tendency for males to be less likely to seek help from health professionals, the stigma that still surrounds eating disorders in males and a lack of knowledge regarding eating disorders in males means that these figures are likely to be higher than those reported above.
Adolescence is typically considered to be the average age of onset of eating disorders in females. However, the early 20s is considered the average age of onset of eating disorders in males. While the age of onset is typically during late adolescence/early twenties, it is important to recognise that eating disorders can develop at any age and that individuals may live with their condition for a number of years.
I also think that Binge Eating Disorder is often hidden in males. Men are often expected to 'clear their plates' and often congratulated or rewarded for having a 'big appetite'. Big appetites are often interpreted as being 'one of the guys' and being 'more manly'. These are messages that men often receive, from various sources, early on in life. However, I think these 'rules' and 'expectations' around men's eating behaviours often disguise a problem with food. How many of the men in your life carry these beliefs and expectations around with the and feel they have to live up to them, but may, inside, be actually experiencing an eating disorder/disordered eating? We don't really know, do we? So these rules and expectations are also hiding a potentially large group of men who are struggling with their relationship with food and eating.
If you are a *male over 16 years old and looking for help and support with an eating disorder or problems with eating or want to talk to someone about this, you are more than welcome to get in touch.
We have highly qualified and experienced male and female therapists, counsellors and practitioners who are here to listen and support you, at your pace in accordance with your needs and goals. We are understanding, non-judgemental and really do 'get' eating disorders and problems with food.
Reach out today. We know it's hard and anxiety-provoking, however, once you have made the step, it will be the start of changing your relationship with food and many other things in your life.
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