Study Shows Increase in Eating Disorders Among Men

By Paul Gaita 04/30/14

Researchers found that men experienced the same symptoms as women, from purging and obsessive exercise to self-harm and feelings of isolation.

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Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa have long been characterized as women’s issues, but a recent study suggests what professionals in this field have long known: men are not exempt from these debilitating conditions.

The study, conducted for the resource by the highly regarded Health Experiences Research Group at Oxford University’s Department of Primary Care, interviewed 39 young people from the United Kingdom, ten of whom were men, on a variety of topics related to eating disorders, from recognition of the problem to their efforts in seeking help. The ten male participants all discussed similar experiences to women, including purging and obsessive exercise and weighing, as well as isolation and self-harm.

Upon reaching a crisis point in their mental and physical health, the men realized that they were in the grip of an eating disorder. But those same men delayed seeking professional help for fear that they would not be taken seriously by healthcare professionals due to the popular perception that their condition was a “woman’s problem.”

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10 million men in the United States will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their lives. Representation of men’s bodies as hyper-muscular is cited as among a core fact for why up to 33 percent of adolescent males control their weight through unhealthy methods, while up to 43 percent of men cite dissatisfaction with their own bodies.

As shown in the Health Experiences Research Group, gender role conflict and the notion of eating disorders as a problem for women are the reasons men are reluctant to pursue professional help for their struggle.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.