McCallum Place provides comprehensive eating disorder treatment for individuals of all genders, including adult men and adolescent boys. We offer personalized programming for boys, men, and individuals of all other gender identities at treatment centers in St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas.
What About When Eating Disorders Strike Males?
Males are seeking treatment for eating disorders in increasing numbers. Over the past few decades, the male body has been an area of increasing media attention. Men are more concerned about physique and fitness and this can drive extreme dieting and exercise or purging behavior that puts them at increased risk.
Unfortunately, eating disorders in males may be missed by professionals, family members, and friends. Males seem to have the same temperament as females at risk including perfectionism, rigidity, avoidance and obsessionality associated with anorexia or attention deficit and impulsivity associated with binge eating and bulimia. Males are less likely to describe a sense of loss of control associated with binge eating. Young adult men are somewhat more likely to also struggle with binge drinking associated with bulimia. Males who struggle with eating disorders may focus more on muscularity than on thinness (muscle dysmorphia).
Males may feel ashamed to discuss their struggles with others for fear of judgment or misunderstanding. Males often show osteopenia or even osteoporosis or growth retardation if they have restricted during their teenage years.
Facts & Information About Eating Disorders in Men
In the past, eating disorders were considered to be only a problem for young women. We now understand that eating disorders affect individuals of all ages and genders, including boys and men. Current estimates are that several million men in the U.S. struggle with some form of serious eating disorder. Due to misconceptions, many physicians are unaware of the signs of eating disorders in men and miss the diagnosis. Although anorexia nervosa is less prevalent in men, males suffer with the same symptoms including self-starvation, an excessive fear of becoming fat and compulsive living patterns. Boys with anorexia nervosa are particularly vulnerable to bone loss and growth retardation during their teenage years. Bulimia nervosa and body image disturbances occur much more frequently in men than previously understood. Binge eating disorder, muscle dysmorphia and exercise addiction occur about as frequently in men as in women. Eating disorders in males, as in females are associated with underlying stress, transitions, perfectionism, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Although the core symptoms of eating disorders are similar in men and women, the specific symptoms may present differently. Body dissatisfaction is driven by cultural ideals, which are different for men and women. The culturally defined ideal body type for men is to have a defined muscular body shape with broad shoulders. Young men are becoming focused on muscular definition, even when not associated with fitness. Thus, men with eating disorders who want to have bigger muscles may engage in excessive weight training, nutritional supplementation and steroid abuse. Increasingly, our culture emphasizes weight control by exercise, especially for males. Males with eating disorders may have a strong desire to achieve a very lean body weight, but weight loss can also be driven by health concerns or an attempt to enhance athletic performance or physical appearance.
Risk Factors for Eating Disorders Among Males
While anyone can develop an eating disorder, some men are more at risk than others. Men and boys who participate in certain sports like wrestling, body building, dancing, rowing, gymnastics, swimming, and running are more likely to struggle with eating disorders because those activities burn energy, but also often focus on physical appearance and body weight. McCallum Place has special eating disorder treatment programs for athletes that tackle the physical and emotional issues that come with sports participation
There are a number of risk factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders in men. These can include a societal focus on the “ideal” body shape, size, and physical appearance. Or, a number of common athletic activities and occupations, can put men at increased risk by leading to an imbalance in energy and exercise or an increased focus on body weight. These activities include:
- Ice skating
- Horse racing
Other contributing factors that can lead to eating disorders or unhealthy weight control problems in men include negative family patterns, such as parents stressing extreme or unhealthy levels of fitness and athleticism, and when coupled with media influences, the pressure to be trim and fit increases. Traumatic events, such as abuse can also lead to the development of eating disorders among boys and men.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, McCallum Place offers free, confidential pre-admission assessments to help determine which level of care may be appropriate.