A report commissioned by the charity Beat in 2015 estimated that more than 725,000 people in the UK are currently dealing with an eating disorder.
Although the condition typically affects females more than males, the number of cases of eating disorders amongst boys is steadily increasing. It’s almost impossible to know an exact figure because boys and men are often too scared to seek help as eating disorders are so often stereotyped as a ‘female problem’.
There has also been an increase in what is known as orthorexia. Orthorexia is when a person develops an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food and becomes obsessed with achieving a ‘perfect’ body, and it is becoming more prevalent amongst boys, causing unhealthy eating habits.
Image-led social media sites have long been criticised for fuelling the rise in orthorexia as young people have increasingly looked toward photos for fitness inspiration. After being bombarded with hundreds of unhealthy or unrealistic body images, the pressure mounts on young people to look like that too. This is when they develop dangerous eating habits.
As people are only just beginning to understand that men can suffer from eating disorders too, there’s very little research on the topic compared to women and eating disorders. From the studies that have looked into this it has become apparent that many of the same risk factors are applicable to both males and females.
In particular, it has been found that, similarly to women, men often develop eating disorders as a coping mechanism or because of underlying emotional stress. Other risk factors that can contribute towards the likelihood of men suffering from problems with eating include:
- Having been overweight and/or teased about their size. Bullying about weight appears to have an impact on both children and adults
- Dieting is one of the most powerful triggers for eating disorders in both males and females, with 70% of young people on a diet at any one time
- Participating in a sport that requires a particular body shape has been found to put an unhealthy amount of pressure on people. Runners and jockeys, for example, are at a higher risk of developing anorexia and bulimia because their profession requires them to be lean. On the other hand, footballers and weight lifters have often been known to develop ‘bigorexia’ as they become consumed with the idea of getting bigger
- Being surrounded by images of so-called ideal body shapes is also impacting on the number of boys and men who are developing eating disorders. Male underwear models, muscular men adorning the covers of fitness magazines, weight loss and workout programmes and the rise in cosmetic surgery procedures are all contributing towards body dissatisfaction.
If you think that you or someone you know could be suffering with an eating disorder, please feel free to visit our Eating Disorder Treatment Programme page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available. Alternatively, you can also contact us in the strictest of confidence if you would like more information.