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Fox News reported on a study that showed over a seven year period, that there was an 18% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders, with 37% of those hospitalized being men.

Men need Eating Disorder recovery too

As indicated in our previous blog, there is a significant increase in the incidence of men’s eating disorders. Fox news released a story surrounding the battle of a man who was diagnosed five years ago, highlighting the alarming increase in the illness amongst men.

Fox News reported that a study showed that over a seven year period, there was an 18% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders, with 37% of those hospitalized being men. Whilst the number of men being diagnosed with and actively seeking treatment for an eating disorder is on the rise, it is likely that the actual numbers are much higher than the reported statistics. Unfortunately the social and cultural pressures on men to look a certain way are growing in line with the pressures on women, due to which many men are suffering in silence as they often do not even realise they have an illness.

These pressures to conform can push or drive men to strive for thinness, much like with women who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa. However men are also exposed to achieving a certain degree of muscularity coupled with very low percentages of body fat, which was described by John F Morgan as ‘bigorexia’ in his book ‘The Invisible Man: a Self-held Guide for Men with Eating Disorders, Compulsive Exercise and Bigorexia’. Due to Eating Disorders being associated as 'woman's illness', many men will not be consciously aware that their behaviours around food and exercise have become compulsive and may be symptoms of an Eating Disorder rather than just a conscious desire to look a certain way.

Anorexia Nervosa is driven by Body Dysmorphia, where the sufferer has perception of their body that isn’t real, driving their need to be thinner. This is also present for men, although they commonly suffer from Muscle Dysmorphia. This mechanism of the illness prevents the individual from seeing how much muscular mass they are obtaining and how much body fat they are losing through exercise. Resulting from this state will see the food intake becoming very restricted, including only foods that are low in calories or high in protein, as well as increasing the need to ever more compulsively exercise.

Eating disorders generally present later in men

Whilst Eating Disorders generally have a later onset than in women, boys in their early teens and younger are beginning to express dissatisfaction with their body images and are dieting and working out. At these ages Anorexia nervosa can lead to stunted growth, whereas later in life the illness can cause a decrease in Gonadotrophins which leads to a reduced sexual drive. It is also possible for men to develop osteoporosis, which is often seen as an illness only women suffer from.

Unfortunately simple life pressures such as leaving home, the ending of a relationship, or work stress can all be possible triggers and the compulsive behaviours around food and exercise can be ways of managing the overwhelming feelings and emotional pain. It is worth being aware that some of the more common symptoms are restricting calorie intake, compulsively over-exercising to burn calories and/or build muscle mass, binge-eating, inducing vomiting, or using laxatives and diet pills.

Underlying this behaviour and thinking will likely be a sense of very low self-esteem which needs to be worked with in treatment alongside therapy to help make cognitive and behavioural changes and enter a healthy long term Eating Disorder recovery. Considering this, residential treatment is always the recommended form of Eating Disorder treatment. Life Works would always encourage anyone who is concerned about Eating Disorders, for themselves or loved ones, to call us for information.

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To discuss how the Life Works team can help to support individuals and families dealing with an eating disorder or for further information on treatment programmes, please call: 01483 745 066 or click here to make an enquiry.

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