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Default Men get eating disorders too
by Booz 04-05-2009, 03:32 PM

Men get eating disorders too


Some facts
Due to secrecy and the imperceptible nature of eating disorders, it is difficult to determine exactly how many men have the conditions at any one time. In a research study carried out by the Eating Disorders Association in 2000 they found that between 10 and 20 per cent of the 60,000 people with eating disorders are males. This means that 6-9,000 men have anorexia or bulimia and using services in the UK. More recent investigations by Harvard University School of Medicine in the US provided a figure of 25 per cent. Numerous other studies have findings ranging from 1 in 6 to 1 in 20 cases being male. None of these figures include binge eating disorder and other research suggests that equal numbers of males and females experience this. Many professionals believe that the majority of male sufferers do not feel they are able to get help, therefore the accurate figures are bound to be significantly higher.

Age of onset
Males of any age can develop an eating disorder but are most likely to begin between 14 and 25. It is not unusual to have an eating disorder in middle age.

Risk factors
Comparatively little research has been done into eating disorders among males but it does seem apparent that many of the risk factors are applicable in men. In particular the role of eating disorders being a coping mechanism, or expression of, underlying emotional stress and is applicable to males as much as it is females, thus any unresolved distress consequently presents a risk to developing eating problems same as females.

In addition, there are a number of other risk factors that can contribute:
1 They were overweight as children and/or teased about their size.

2 They are dieting ? one of the most powerful eating disorder triggers in both males and females and as much as 70 per cent of young people will diet at one time.

3 They participate in the sport that demands a particular body build (thin or big). Runners or jockeys are at higher risk of developing an anorexia and bulimia, while footballers or weight lifters will focus on getting bigger (known as ''bigorexia''). Wrestlers who try to shed pounds quickly before a match so they can compete in a lower weight category seem to be at special risk. Body builders are at risk if they deplete body fat and fluid reserves to achieve high definition.

4 They have a job or profession that demands thinness. Male models, actors, and general entertainers seem to be at higher risk than the general population.

5 Some, but not all, male sufferers can be gay or bisexual. There is debate why the gay and bisexual male community is at particular risk but this may be partly because they are judged on attractiveness in the same way that women are in the heterosexual community. Fear of coming out and worry about rejection is also a possibility. In the Eating Disorder Association's study of eating disorders in men, they found that 20 per cent of male sufferers were gay making up twice the proportion of gay men in the population. In the US the numbers are even higher as they represent 42 per cent of male sufferers.

6 Living in a culture on fixed diets and physical appearance is also a risk factor. Male underwear models and men on the front pages of male fitness magazines and gay men's press lead other males to compare themselves with these so-called ''ideal'' body types. So do ads for men's hair and skin care products. Weight loss and workout programs, as well as cosmetic surgery procedures, whose goal is chiselled muscularity can lead to the same sort of body dissatisfaction that afflicts women who read fashion magazines and watch movies and TV shows featuring so-called perfect people.


A study at the University of Florida found that young men's beliefs about the perfect body size has changed over the past two decades put down to the cultural endorsement of the ''perfect''male body (i.e. the Daniel Craig or David Beckham style muscular-look '' complete with six pack, toned arms and a slim waist). Researchers found that teens were increasingly experiencing body dissatisfaction, changing eating habits and using anabolic steroids and dietary supplements to control weight and gain muscle. Worryingly, a separate study at the University of Illinois found that the influence of abnormally muscle-bound characters in kids'' computer games drove boys as young as eight to try and build up their muscles.

Definitions
Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical illnesses, in which sufferers use food and sometimes exercise in different ways, to manage difficult circumstances in their lives and the feelings that come with them. It is important to remember that food is not necessarily the problem, but is in fact the underlying factors (typically, low self esteem and lack of worth).

Sufferers will use their eating disorder as a coping mechanism to be able to get from one day to the next and/or through times when they feel unable to cope.

What anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorders, compulsive eating/exercising and ''bigorexia'' have in common is that people use them as strategies for dealing with difficult life situations they feel are beyond their control.

Anorexia (nervosa)
What is anorexia?

Anorexia, or 'Manorexia' as dubbed in the press, is an illness in which you continually diet and starve yourself. You may be frightened of putting on weight and act this out by restricting your food and drink intake. You may also binge, vomit, use laxatives or exercise excessively in order to control your weight.

Many people with anorexia feel they do not deserve to occupy space. The more weight they lose, the less of them there is to hate. When others condemn their behaviour and decreased size - this confirms to the sufferer the need to hear they have control. However, for many trying to control their weight this leads them into a downward spiral as they have no ideal discernible weight that feels safe to them which only exacerbates the illness.

Someone who is anorexic is in a desperate bid to hang onto control and cope with life. It is not a suicide bid, as some people around them often presume. Although, in some instances where side effects are so bad and the anorexia has been going on for some time, the illness can be life threatening.

What is happening?
We all need nourishment to survive and when we deprive our body of the essential food components we need this can effect our body, mind and spirit in a variety of ways. Firstly, you may become frightened of eating and therefore reduce the amount you eat significantly over time. The lack of vital fuel and goodness means that our bodies go into self-defence mode and use up all our reserve fuel supplies (this being fat). In a number of months, you will become much thinner and your body weaker due to the lack of food.

The mind is also affected and it may become harder to make decisions as the chemicals in your brain will be unbalanced. Other mental conditions may also affect your way of thinking, which can vary from person to person. Once a sufferer, realises that losing weight is not the solution to their problems, this may make the eating habits worse and evolve into other methods of control such as bingeing. Sometimes this may lead to other self-harming behaviours.

Signs: Anorexia
In short: Deliberate restriction of diet, dramatic weight loss and extreme fear of weight gain.

The effects on the body:
1 Extreme weight loss

2 Stumped growth in young men

3 Constipation and abdominal pains

4 Low blood pressure, dizziness

5 Bloated face, puffy face and ankles

6 Hair on the body (if sufferer is generally not hairy)

7 Loss of hair on the head

8 Poor blood circulation and feeling cold

9 Dry, rough and discoloured skin

10 Loss of bone mass

11 Loss of muscle mass

Psychological signs:
1 Intense fear of gaining weight and/or preoccupation with weight body shape

2 Counting calories and limiting food choice

3 Obsessive interest in food and what other people are eating

4 Distorted perception of body shape and weight

5 Reluctance to eat in front of others

6 Denying the problem

7 Changes in personality/mood swings

8 Becoming aware of an ''inner voice''


Behavioural signs ~ Rigid and obsessive behaviour towards food

1 Restlessness and hyperactivity

2 Wearing bid baggy clothes

3 Vomiting; taking laxatives


Bulimia (nervosa)
What is bulimia (nervosa)?

Bulimia is a condition which a sufferer will eat a large amount of food, many hundreds of calories, quickly and without control. In bulimia, their binges will follow by an attempt to compensate their behaviours most commonly by making themselves vomit. Sometimes a sufferer will deliberately starve themselves of take laxatives or use diuretics. This forms a bulimic cycle in which they may make carry out this behaviour on a daily basis, once in a while, or consistently over a number of months or years.

While the bulimic pattern exists, the sufferer will experience an array of negative feelings that fuel their habit including self hatred, disgust, low self esteem and are likely to have depression. On the outside, bulimic sufferers will often come across as confident do-gooders who are personable but are in fact deeply unhappy. Unlike anorexia, bulimia is not visible and can remain hidden from those who are closest to them for a long time.

What is happening?
Those who have bulimia will often describe feelings of emptiness, which is hunger they are trying to fill through bingeing. The desperate feelings they experience is what triggers a binge. When they feel full, they get the urge to get rid of it as if it is something evil. Vomiting brings relief. Other compensating behaviours bring somewhat of a relief that helps them ease their pain. Once the food has been removed from the body, a 'high' may be experienced. Some sufferer's speak of 'purity' making themselves feel better.

Signs: Bulimia
In short: Recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, fasting or exercise. Weight usually at near normal.

The effects on the body ~ Frequent weight changes

1 Sore throat, tooth decay and bad breath caused by excessive vomiting

2 Swollen salivary glands making face redder

3 Poor skin condition and hair loss

4 Lack of interest in sex

5 Lethargy and tiredness

6 Increased risk of heart problems and to other internal organs


Psychological signs ~ Uncontrollable urges to eat vast amounts of food

1 Obsession with food or feeling ''out of control'' around food

2 Distorted perception of body shape and weight

3 Emotional behaviour and mood swings

4 Depression; anxiety; low self esteem; shame and guilt

5 Isolation; feeling helpless and lonely


Behavioural signs ~ Bingeing and vomiting

1 Disappearing to the toilet after meals in order to vomit food eaten

2 Excessive use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas

3 Periods of fasting

4 Excessive exercise

5 Secrecy and reluctance to socialise

6 Shop lifting for foods; unusually high amounts spent on food

7 Food disappearing unexpectedly or being secretly hoarded


Binge Eating Disorder
What is binge eating disorder/compulsive eating?

Similar to bulimia, someone who has experiences binge eating disorder will binge but do not compensate their behaviours. They experience the same emptiness that someone who has bulimia but will retain what they have eaten, which will usually make them overweight/obese. A binge eater may eat when feeling depressed and do so on a frequent basis. Someone who eats compulsively and constantly may consume at least 3000 calories or more a day. Both problems share the same emotional difficulties concurrent with anorexia and bulimia and are other ways of using food to cope.

What is happening?
Many contributing factors can influence our eating behaviours typically, family being one of them.

As with other eating disorders shape and size can become the focus instead of the underlying factors. The extra weight carried by someone who binge/compulsively eats can act as a protective armour against the outside world and conceal feelings of weakness and vulnerability.

Signs: Binge Eating
In short: Habitual practice of eating to relieve stress and negative emotions. Sufferer is usually overweight or obese.


General signs: Eating much more rapidly than usual

1 Eating until feeling uncomfortably full

2 Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry

3 Eating alone because of embarrassment at the large quantities consumed

4 Feeling out of control around food

5 Feeling self-conscious eating with others

6 Feeling ashamed, depressed or guilty after bingeing

7 Being unable to purge yourself or compensate food eaten

8 Large exterior, often feels small on the inside


Exercise Disorders
There are two types of exercise disorders: compulsive and ''bigorexia.''Please read both definitions as there are some overlaps between the two.

What you must keep in mind with anyone who is a compulsive exerciser or ''bigorexic'' is that they are people who take exercise to the extreme and in many cases push themselves to a limit, which is beyond healthy.

Although, they are not considered eating disorders themselves compulsive exercise and bigorexia share the same characteristics that need urgent professional help.

What is compulsive exercise?
This is usually a problem encountered with people who have anorexia and bulimia. What makes exercise ''compulsive''is when someone will spent many hours a day exercising several days a week, if not every day.

Usual modes of over exercising are excessive running and spending long periods at the gym. What makes compulsive exercise different to bigorexia is that compulsive exercisers will spend many hours aiming to lose calories in order to loose weight. It is a common behaviour amongst suffererers of anorexia and bulimia.

Signs: Compulsive Exercise
In short: Excessive exercise, usually to lose weight (see also Bigorexia).

General signs: Obsessively exercising for hours a day most days

1 Selective on what they eat ~ may eat very little and typically ''healthy'' foods like salads

2 Increasingly bothered by weight and size

3 Setting ambitious fitness targets (e.g. running 5 miles every day)

4 Cancelling social events with family and friends to exercise

5 Refusing to take time off from gym sessions despite illness or injury

6 Uncharacteristic mood swings can be a symptom of high energy drinks or supplements to increase energy to exercise

7 May have previously had an eating disorder or recovering

What is ''bigorexia''?
Basically, the reverse of anorexia. Instead of looking in a mirror and seeing themselves as fat, men see a puny shape, even if they appear well build to others. This distorted image means that they are obsessed with becoming muscular and are never happy, whatever size they achieve.

Their preoccupation with muscle results in compulsive exercise and weight training, even when they are injured. They may sacrifice social events and relationships, work responsibilities and family life to complete a rigid exercise regime. Some men may resort to using illegal steroids or other muscle building medications or products, even though they are fully aware of the dangerous potential consequences. Possible side effects of bigorexia include: delayed healing process which means muscles may take longer to recover; susceptibility to infection and impaired immunity thus making it more difficult to fight off infection. Steroid abuse is dangerous and there has been suggestions it can lead to impotence, shrinking testicles, damaged fertility and even liver cancer.

What is happening?
Going to the gym most days is a good thing, but training hard to the point of excess can cause a multitude of different health problems. In effect, compulsive exercise can lead to similar problems as anorexia. If someone is anorexic or bulimic and is using compulsive exercise as a way of compensating for their behaviours this is using up essential calories, which are needed to carry out the simplest functions, even sleeping. When the body is exhausted of calories this can dramatically slow down the systems in the body.


Bigorexia is equally damaging (as outlined above) and if a sufferer does not get adequate rest this can be counter productive for them achieving what they want. Using steroids puts strain on the heart and can lead to heart failure.

Signs: Bigorexia
In short: Excessive exercise in order to gain a bigger size.

General signs: Eating more to get bulkier'' especially meat and fish '' and drink daily protein drinks

1 Obsessively exercising or weightlifting for hours a day
2 Cancelling social events with family and friends to train
3 Refusing to take time off from gym sessions despite illness or injury
4 Insisting he's puny when actually he is very muscular
5 Uncharacteristic mood swings can be a symptom of steroid abuse

Treatments
People need support from friends, family and other close people when they start coming to terms with their eating disorder and the underlying factors. However it is paramount that they get professional support to help ease their problematic relationship with food. Receiving help early on is crucial if a person with eating is experiencing eating problems. The first step is usually talking to a GP (even if it is not your regular doctor) who will check your symptoms, weight loss and eating habits and will determine whether you are likely to have an eating disorder.

They will normally ask you some simple questions about your background, lifestyle and general emotional state to identify the underlying factors and feelings behind your eating problems/disorder. GPs generally won't usually have the time carry out any deeper investigations and will probably refer you onto a specialist in helping people with eating distress. After having an initial meeting with a specialist you will then be put onto a waiting list for treatments ~ if you do not get this sooner.

Below is a brief guide to medical treatments (talking and admission into hospital) and other complementary treatments, in which you may also want to consider?

Talking treatments
Talking to a counsellor or psychotherapist can help you to deal with difficult feelings and behaviours, in a way that is constructive. They are trained to listen and help you explore the various strategies that will enable you to work to some kind of solution. Counsellors will usually work with you to deal with the problems you experience in the here and now, whole psychotherapists will work with you more intensively and in the longer term. You may also be referred to a psychologist who will practise Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves helping people to identify negative feelings (e.g. low self esteem, lack of self worth, etc) to replace them with positive ways of thinking. CBT is particularly effective for people experiencing eating disorders.

Group or family therapy is another option is useful if your family or people around you have been affected by your eating disorder and feel unable to help. This type of therapy will enable the group to communicate better and relate to your situation.


Hospitalisation
In circumstances where someone's eating disorder is affecting their health and wellbeing in a big way, they may be admitted into hospital. Treatments usually involve being fed to bring the body functions back to some kind or normality and talking treatments. The treatment will usually be tailored to suit the needs of the patient. Duration of treatment can vary and can sometimes be a couple of weeks to three months. This entirely depends on how severely malnutritioned the person is. It is also worth pointing out that treatment way not be local as not every authority will have an eating disorder inpatient unit. There are also private clinics and although have a similar approach, you are likely to have more of a say in the treatment you receive. It is worth checking out what their policies are on treatments as some practices are stricter than others and some may impose penalties if you do not comply. Many private eating disorder clinics may also offer complementary therapies including psychotherapy (individually or in groups), drug treatments and art therapies.


Note about treatments: The types and availability of treatments varies around the country and different types may be offered. Treatment should include dealing with the emotional as well as the physical issues.

We have deliberately omitted information on medications as we believe it is up to you and your doctor to decide what medicine(s) - if any - is best for you. This can be trial and error and may take some time before you find a medicine(s) that are effective. For general or specific information medications please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
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  #2  
Old 08-18-2009
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Very interesting read!!
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Interesting read.

So many people associate eating disorders with women only.

Thanks for posting, Booz!
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bump!
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good read for the boys
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I definitely fall into multiple categories with this.....
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Quote:
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I definitely fall into multiple categories with this.....
Have you ever sought counselling for any of the above?
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Have you ever sought counselling for any of the above?
No, it just never seemed like something I needed to fix. Granted, things have worsened in the past year.
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