Up to 30 million people of both sexes and all ages in the United States suffer from an eating disorder, reports the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
However, while eating disorders affect so many, our understanding of male eating disorders is often quite limited.
Helping to combat this misunderstanding is a recent myth-busting article from About.com, based on a webinar given by Dr. Stuart Murray, an eating disorder clinician and co-director of the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders.
Here are the 3 myths about male eating disorders our friends at About.com just busted:
- Eating disorders rarely occur in males. One of the first clinical descriptions of an anorexia case was that of a male. The About.com article reports that recent research hows a significant rate of men experiencing eating disorders, while pointing out that Avoidant/Restrictive Food Disorder is more commonly found in males than females. Unfortunately, however, the article also notes that less than 1% of eating disorder research is specifically focused on men.
- Eating disorders look the same in women and men. According to the About.com article, “males with eating disorders demonstrate greater psychiatric comorbidity, a later age of onset, and greater rates of suicidality than females with eating disorders.” Men are also far less likely than women to seek treatment for an eating disorder, which highlights not only the different way the disorder affects each sex, but also the fact that eating disorders may be considered to occur less frequently in males simply because fewer report experiencing the disorder at all.
- Homosexuality in males is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. According to the article, Dr. Murray’s group conducted a study which found little connection between homosexuality and eating disorders. However, gender identification did seem to have a connection with the concern one suffering from an eating disorder has about their body–those who self-identified as more feminine tend to yearn to be more thin, while those who identified more masculine often strive to be bigger.
We would like to thank About.com and Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.C., CEDS for sharing this info and busting these myths commonly believed about male eating disorders. Gaining a better understanding of the situation is always one of the first steps in the healing process.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, don’t want to seek help. The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders is a great online resource, and the ANAD hotline is available from 9am-5pm central time at (630) 577-1330.