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Eating Disorders in Men

by Nancy Riggins-Hume, LCSW

Although eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating usually are attributed to women, men are being diagnosed in greater numbers. Medical professionals believe that many men do not seek treatment out of shame or a feeling that anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating are women's disorders. Although the course of the illnesses is similar, men tend to develop eating disorders later in life than women.

There are certain risk factors involved in development of an eating disorder that are specific to men, such as being overweight as a child, being involved in sports that require thinness, cultural expectations among some homosexuals, and professions such as modeling or acting. Researchers have found that in both genders, dieting is a primary trigger.

Men are more likely to exercise to excess as a significant part of anorexia and bulimia. They have body image distortions, believing themselves to be fat when, in fact, they are very thin.

Treatment for men is less available than for women. Depending on the severity of his illness, an eating disorder specialist could treat a man with individual and group psychotherapy. However, for some men inpatient treatment may be necessary. Many metabolic processes become disrupted from anorexia and bulimia, and can create life-threatening emergencies.

Men can recover from eating disorders, but it is a long process. Relapse is common, and impulses to restrict eating or over exercise can be lifelong. Overeaters Anonymous and Anorexia/Bulimia Anonymous can offer support to supplement treatment.

Nancy Riggins-Hume
Licensed Clinical Social Worker


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