Breaking the Stigma: The Reality of Male Eating Disorders

Reviewed by Jeremie Walker, MD, MBA · January 12, 2023
eating disorders in men

If you’re reading this, you may wonder if men struggle with eating disorders. Unfortunately, the answer is yes, absolutely. While it’s true that eating disorders are more commonly diagnosed in women, men can also develop these mental health conditions. In fact, research suggests that the prevalence of eating disorders in men may be underestimated. This blog post will delve into this topic and explore the various factors that can contribute to their development. We’ll also talk about what a male eating disorder looks like and the importance of seeking help.

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What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that can potentially damage an individual’s physical and mental health. These disorders can include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia
  • Orthorexia nervosa

Are Men Also Prone to Eating Disorders? 

Eating disorders are not limited to women; men can also develop eating disorders. Research shows that the prevalence of eating disorders in men may actually be higher than previously thought. But the stigma surrounding men seeking treatment for these conditions may lead to underreporting.

While eating disorders are more common in women than men, an estimated 10 million men in the United States will struggle with an eating disorder at some point. And according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC), one-third of all people reporting disordered eating behaviors are male. 

What Causes Eating Disorders in Men?

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of eating disorders in men.

One factor is societal pressure to conform to certain body types and expectations. For example, in many cases, the media promotes an idealized body type for men that is lean, muscular, and toned. As a result, men may feel pressure to conform to this standard and develop unhealthy eating habits to achieve this body type.

Another factor that may contribute to eating disorders in men is a history of trauma or abuse. Some men may develop disordered eating habits as a coping mechanism to deal with past trauma. Additionally, men who have experienced abuse may also have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. This is due to the negative impact that abuse can have on self-esteem and body image.

Other factors contributing include:

  • A genetic predisposition
  • Mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression
  • Certain life events or stressors, such as a breakup or job loss

It’s important to note that eating disorders can develop in men of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds. No one is immune to the development of an eating disorder.

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Signs of Male Eating Disorders

The symptoms of eating disorders in men may be similar to those in women, but there are some key differences. For example, men with eating disorders may be more likely to use unhealthy exercise habits to control their weight. They may also be more likely to use supplements or steroids without the guidance of a physician to achieve a particular body type.

Men with eating disorders may be more likely to hide their condition and avoid seeking help. This can make it challenging to identify and diagnose eating disorders in men.

If you suspect a man you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, there are several signs to look out for. These may include drastic changes in weight, an obsession with food or body weight, irregular eating habits, and an excessive focus on appearance.

It’s important to remember that eating disorders can have severe consequences if left untreated. Therefore, if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional. Treatment options for eating disorders can include therapy, medication, and nutritional counseling. With the proper treatment and support, it is possible to overcome an eating disorder and improve overall physical and mental health.

Opt Health does not treat eating disorders, but we can help you to manage your weight in a healthy, sustainable way. To start your journey with Opt Health, click here or call (855) 443-8678 for a free consultation.

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