Eating disorders are portrayed with the media as being an almost predominately female issue, which is somewhat true as research has demonstrated that females account for 90-95% of anorexia nervosa diagnoses (Sharp et al., 1994) and 85-90% of bulimia nervosa diagnoses (Carlat and Carmago, 1991).  The true extent of the amount of both males and females suffering with eating disorder is likely to be hugely under estimated and there are many factors which hinder sufferers in seeking professional support.

The subtypes of eating disorder females may suffer from are in effect no different to what males may suffer with.  However, the symptomology of females and males may differ due to their gender and their individual personality.

The age of onset for females with eating disorders has significantly changed over the last 10 years.  There are many younger, pre-pubertal girls being diagnosed and treated for eating disorders including those as young as 8 (Nicholls, Lynne and Viner, 2011) whilst there has also been a significant increase in the number of females being diagnosed who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s (Dahabra, 2010).

Risk factors for females and males are almost identical with the biggest differences being due to differences in personality which directly impacts on an individual’s susceptibility of developing an eating disorder (McKnight Investigators, 2003).

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Within society and the media, eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, have been commonly referred to as an illness that almost exclusively affects the female population.  However, recent literature has shown that 5-10% of all anorexia suffers (Sharp et al., 1994) and 10-15% of all bulimia sufferers are male (Carlat and Carmago, 1991).  These figures may even be considered an underestimate, as it is believed that a lot of males fail to seek professional guidance or even deny having an eating disorder.  This is primarily due to the stigmas attached to the illness, as males may possess a fear of being categorized as ‘effeminate’ (Pope et al., 2000).

Males can suffer from a range of different eating disorders, some of which may include; Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Compulsive Exercise, Bigorexia, EDNOS, and Binge Eating Disorder.

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Risk factors and age of onset:The majority of male cases fall between ages 14-25 (Forman-hoffman et al., 2008), although eating disorders can occur at any age and these can often relate to stressful life events e.g. family break-ups.

Eating disorder risk factors are similar to that of females and may include:

  • Genetic inheritance
  • Brain chemistry
  • Certain types of genes
  • Societal pressure
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive exercise
  • Sexuality
  • Perfectionism
  • Obsessive personality type
  • Family pressures

Do you possess ANY of the following signs and symptoms?

  • Fear of weight gain, thus wanting to constantly appear lean.
  • Obsessive and ritualisitic behaviour around food.
  • Eliminating particular food groups, or even starving yourself.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation from family and friends.
  • Out-of-control exercise schedules and routines.
  • Taking potentially dangerous supplements or Performance Enhancing Drugs.
  • Denial – not admitting that you have an issue and you may generate anger when being accused.
  • Low self-esteem, distorted body image, depression or anxiety.

What are the physical effects?

You may experience heart problems; hormonal disruptions (low testosterone), thus affecting your fertility and libido; increase risk of illness/poorer immune system and depression.

Also, check out: www.mengetedstoo.co.uk for more information on Men and Eating Disorders.