Most of us are familiar with women having eating disorders, but it might surprise you to know just how many men do too, with male anorexia being one of the biggest health issues among teenage and adult men today. The topic seems to be avoided by most men, since it can be an embarrassing and hard to understand disease for men to have. So many women are comfortable talking about eating disorders because they’ve been a problem for women for years throughout history. What researchers are discovering, however, is that male anorexia is also becoming a quick rising problem today. With the emphasis society places on all of us to look perfect, it is no surprise that men use this form of control to achieve perfection just like women do. Find out what you need to know about male anorexia, so if a male in your life starts to display symptoms, you’ll know what to do.
Male anorexia affects approximately one million men every single year in the United States. That is a lot of men for us to not ever hear anything about this deathly disease! As a woman who has recovered from anorexia and spent years fighting the battle myself, I never ever met one man with anorexia, or at least who said they had anorexia. Keep in mind that just because men don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean they don’t struggle.
Male anorexia is often hidden through fascinations like bodybuilding or losing weight to get in shape. That isn't to say that all men who are into fitness and bodybuilding have anorexia, so you shouldn't jump to conclusions, but just be aware of obsessive signs. What starts out as something harmless becomes a way to hide the undergoing disease of anorexia. While most men don’t usually initially realize they have anorexia, it can be seen in symptoms such as being obsessed with lifting weights or exercise, and eating very little calories, no matter how hard they work out. It can also be hidden through the form of men taking multitudes of fat burners or supplements to lose weight.
Most male anorexics will also have coexisting disorders such as anxiety, poor body image or obsessive compulsive disorder, just like anorexic women do. They turn to anorexia for a sense of control in the midst of madness. Being aware of this is important because if a male you know starts to obsess over his body, exercising, or eating, and also exhibits high forms of anxiety or control, this could be a huge red flag.
Most men with anorexia believe they are overweight, no matter how thin they are. Just like women, men with anorexia see themselves in a different way than others do. Nothing is ever good enough, and a number is never low enough. This can show up in ways such as when receiving comments or compliments about their weight, they continue to believe they are fat or deny that they are really thin. If they’re obsessing over their body and denying their low weight, they probably have body dysmorphic disorder, where they see themselves bigger than what they are. This is a co-existing symptom of anorexia.
As I said, it affects over one million men every year, and as a whole, 20% of people with anorexia are men! That is awfully scary considering we don’t hear much about it. With the increasing popularity of bodybuilding and “leaning” out to bulk up muscles and create definition, male anorexia is well hidden today. The fashion industry also features men who are incredibly fit, thin and look nothing like what most real men do today. This sounds awfully similar to the way women suffer from trying to look like stick-thin fashion models and perfectly proportioned swimsuit models. Though 20% of men may not seem like a lot, that amount could include a man you know.
Just like women suffer health issues from anorexia, so do men. Thinning hair, dehydration, brittle hair and nails, flaky skin, low appetite,and digestive issues can all be signs that anorexia may be the underlying issue. If a male you know seems to be obsessed with his appearance and exhibits these issues, be aware that anorexia could be a possibility, though not certainty. Also if a male you know is obsessed with his appearance, but they eat normal and exhibits these symptoms, there is a small chance bulimia could be an issue. Men suffer bulimia just as often as they suffer anorexia as well, so never rule that out as a possibility.
Male anorexia is thought to be affected by genetics, just like female anorexia is. Though studies are still under construction and review, men with parents who suffer control issues, body issues, or low self-esteem are thought to be more prone to developing an eating disorder than those without parents of these types of genetic traits.
Never rule out male anorexia or male eating disorders as a possibility for men you know to develop. There is nothing feminine about this disease. Instead, I prefer to think of it as a disease of the pressure to be perfect. By this time, we should all know that in the society we live in, the allure of perfection knows no sex preference. Do you know any men with body issues or an eating disorder?
Sources: gq.com, huffingtonpost.com
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