Yes, eating disorders can afflict men too. If you want to know about the various types of these disorders and also their causes, read this article.
Eating disorders have often been associated only with women, but increasing revelations show the prevalence of these disorders in men too. Men and boys also have an obsession with a perfect body. The only reason it is less identified is because perhaps, men do not like to be perceived as suffering from the problems of a woman. As such, they will not express themselves, and succumb to the pressures of society and the demand for a perfect physical appearance in the form of these eating disorders.
Types and Symptoms
These are common disorders that are suffered by men and women alike. It is thus, important to identify the types and their relevant symptoms, which have been enlisted here.
This disorder is characterized by continual starving and dieting. The fear of weight gain is at its peak, which is why the diet is completely restricted. Another sign of anorexia nervosa is the need to binge, vomit, or excessively exercise, to lose and maintain weight. The psychological basis of this disorder lies in the need to cope with life. The individuals suffering from this disorder, hope to gain some control by following the norms of weight loss and developing what according to them is a ‘perfect’ body image. However, they don’t realize when to stop, as for them, no amount of weight loss is satisfactory. This further aggravates the disorder and may become life-threatening at a later stage in life, as the body is going to use up all the reserve supplies of energy and ultimately become very weak. This disorder also affects the mental balance, which may affect the direction of thought.
Those suffering from this condition eat large amounts of food in a short span of time. This induces guilt, which they deal with, by making themselves vomit, or use laxatives and diuretics. They may even starve themselves, in some cases. This creates a cycle, which continues in the same pattern, resulting in weakness of the body. Those suffering from bulimia nervosa often experience feelings such as, disgust, poor self-esteem, and are even victims of depression. The most serious concern regarding bulimia is that, it is not visible like anorexia, and may remain hidden for a long time, until its effects finally start showing. They appear confident, but are actually seriously disturbed within.
Not all disorders associated with eating, are related to weight loss. Binge eating refers to someone, who binges on high calorie foods to fill the emptiness they feel within, similar to those suffering from bulimia. However, these people do not feel guilty about the same, and in some cases, reportedly feel better after eating. This has most to do with depression and low self-esteem, and they use food as a means to cope with these emotional issues. This disorder serves to hide feelings of vulnerability that one may experience. Finally, they become overweight and develop the risk of several other health problems.
The urge to constantly exercise, and either lose weight, or build a body that they perceive as puny, even though they may be well built, is what characterizes an exercise disorder.
- Compulsive Exercise Disorder: This usually accompanies anorexia and bulimia, wherein, a person may compulsively exercise for several hours in a day, in an attempt to lose weight and burn calories.
- Bigorexia: This is the opposite of anorexia, particular only to men, where a man or boy may perceive himself as lean and puny, in spite of having a good body build. As such, he will resort to prolonged hours at the gym, and may even use steroids to develop the shape of the body he desires. They may ignore all their family and social responsibilities in their endeavor to build a good, muscular body, which they are usually never satisfied with.
Following are some of the reasons why men may develop the above disorders.
- Some men, as kids, may have been overweight, and constantly been teased about it, which is why they may have developed a poor self image, leading to the development of an eating disorder.
- If men belong to a profession that requires them to be thin and good looking at all times, such as acting, modeling, and providing any kind of entertainment, then they may succumb to the pressure that results in an eating disorder.
- Even sportsmen are at a risk of developing these disorders, because of the demands of a particular body shape. They could require to be lean, or have a muscular built. It has been found that disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more prevalent in athletes. Sometimes, wrestlers, who are asked to lose weight quickly to compete in a match that has a lower weight category, are also at a risk of developing problems associated with eating.
- Adhering to the wrong diet pattern, in an endeavor to improve body image, often triggers such disorders in males.
- A research has suggested that homosexual or bisexual men are at a higher risk of developing such disorders. This is because of the pressure to look good and attract the attention they desire. Even the fear of openly admitting to homosexuality, may cause stress triggering off these health problems.
- Men, just like women, also get affected by the idea of a projected body image, by those in showbiz. They sense the pressure, just like women do, and desire to look exactly like those models and actors, with their perfectly chiseled body. In a desire to attain this body type, they fall victim to eating disorders.
To be able to overcome these disorders, the sufferer requires family support. As mentioned above, men themselves may not like to admit that they are suffering from such a problem. As such, one should watch out for the signs of these disorders in men, and help them overcome these problems. This can be done by joining support groups, and undergoing relevant therapy, as this problem is mostly psychological. Ultimately, it should be remembered, that it is not physical appearance but good health that matters in the long run, and one should only resort to the norms of healthy weight loss combined with the right amount of exercise, if they wish to enhance their appearance and overall health.