Confronting the Growing Problem of Eating Disorders in Men

Recently, BBC Panorama did a special on a growing problem in the UK and throughout the EU: male eating disorders

To clarify, there is no difference between male eating disorders and female eating disorders. Both genders identify with the same symptoms, behaviours, and side effects as one another. However, male eating disorders are categorized and talked about specifically because they have gone unnoticed for many years.

Generally, eating disorders enter discourse through the lens of the feminine, attributed largely to the experience of female mental health. Males struggling with eating disorders have been disenfranchised from treatment, research, and the simple acknowledgement that their problems are real and can be fixed.

According to the research conducted by BBC, approximately 400,000 of the 1.6 million people who struggle with eating disorders are male. That calculates to 25%. 25% of all those struggling with eating disorders are male. The numbers can no longer be ignored.

Doctors throughout the UK are starting to treat these disorders with seriousness by referring them out for treatment.

The Telegraph reports that the number of cases of referrals to treatment for men with eating disorders has risen by about 43% in just two years. Men are struggling with severe body image and body dysmorphic issues, taking extreme lengths to change their appearance, control their eating, and more.

Men struggle with clinical anorexia, an obsessive and dangerous restriction of food to achieve thinness, bulimia, binging and purging food, binge eating disorder, unstoppable eating of food, and body image disorders which lead to disordered eating behaviours.

Though men may become obsessed with the idea of thinness, many men are adhering to an unhealthy perspective of the “ideal” male physique. Gym-sculpted bodies, a lean, muscular, physique, is how much of the mainstream media perpetuates the objectified male body. Through advertisements and fashion, the male body is homogenized to one kind of look, ridding men of the individuality of their bodies.

Men struggling with their mental health in regards to eating disorders has become a newsworthy topic that opens the floor for dialectical engagement among the informed and misinformed. To be informed, these are facts you must understand about male eating disorders.

  • Eating disorders are not forms of extreme dieting or lifestyle: On the contrary, eating disorders are the manifestation of a mental illness developed through an obsessive preoccupation with weight, image, food, and control. Though the elements of a lifestyle are present, mentally they are taken to abusive extremes.

  • Eating disorders have little to do with eating: Eating disorders are often a product of deeper underlying issues which necessitate the need to feel in control. Food, weight, diet, and exercise are ways to gauge and manage control, which make men feel more in control in other areas of their lives- through the control is an illusion.

  • Men need support in treatment and recovery: Eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa, are considered to be the most fatal of eating disorders due to severe health complications and a high risk of suicide.

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