There is often a stereotype that eating disorders occur primarily in females, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Fuelling the fire of this stereotype, tests used to assess individuals for eating disorders often use language directed towards females. Although often missed, around 10% of those diagnosed with an eating disorder are male1,2. Due to the stigma that men feel when suffering from an eating disorder, they typically do not seek treatment1. As a result, it is predicted that males actually make up 25% of all individuals with eating disorders1.
Within the male population, eating disorders such as anorexia and binge-eating disorder are increasing3. Many times, anorexia is quite different among males when compared to females. While women who struggle with anorexia strive for thinness, men who struggle with anorexia often strive to build muscle through excessive strength exercising1. Another prevalent disorder among men related to body size and shape is known as muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder. This can affect anyone but tends to occur most often in male body builders5. Common symptoms of muscle dysmorphia include obsession over being muscular as well as excessive exercising, abnormal steroid use and eating patterns, as well as excessive purchases of supplements4. Due to the different dynamics and needs of males for effective treatment, the suggested treatment strategy is a gender sensitive approach5. Early intervention is critical, as eating disorder mortality risk is higher for males with eating disorders compared to females5.
Similar to women, the rate of body dissatisfaction is increasing in men as they are equally as exposed to the societal pressures regarding unrealistic expectations of the “ideal figure”2. Fortunately, progress is being made with the cultural movement towards body positivity. However, this body positive movement seems to have left males behind. Males are in as much need as females for the self-love messages that have been created from this movement and should be given just as much attention. The body positive movement has made those with eating disorders feel more comfortable in their own skin, helping them to develop a healthier relationship with their bodies. When advocating for this topic, we should all become more inclusive within this movement and use more gender neutral language and images. There needs to be more awareness of the commonality of eating disorders among males. If we try normalizing acceptance of all body sizes regardless of gender, we can all feel accepted and come together to celebrate our beauty and individuality!
- Ryan, K. (2013). Males and eating disorders. Aust Nurs Midwifery J. 21(5),45.
- Weltzin, T.E. (2012). Eating Disorders in Males. Psychiatric Times; 29(10), 32-34.
- Eating disorders in men. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/special-issues/men.
- Eating disorders in men and boys. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males
- Buser, J.K., & Gibson S. (2014). Differentiation and eating disorder symptoms among males. TFJ. 22(1), 17-25. doi: 10.1177/1066480713504903.