Male with Eating Disorder
A Quarter of Eating Disorder Cases are Men

More and more men are seeking treatment for, and help for, eating disorders. With eating disorder statistics indicating that over 675,000 cases are men, WLR guest writer Cara Frost-Sharratt investigates.

A Quarter of Eating Disorder Cases are Men

By WLR Guest Writer, Cara Frost-Sharratt

A staggering 2.7 million English adults suffer from an eating disorder. This is over twice the number that previous research had concluded were sufferers and it means that eating issues such as anorexia and bulimia affect a far greater proportion of the population than anyone had thought.

Results were compiled from the results of SCOFF tests. This simple questionnaire puts a number of questions to individuals regarding their eating habits and attitudes to food. It is widely used to ascertain whether people are suffering from an eating problem and it is valued by professionals, as it’s quick and easy to complete and is a reliable indicator. 

WLR says...

Whilst we are familiar with the worrying numbers of women who have eating disorders, many people will probably be shocked to learn that so many men are also sufferers. Eating disorders – and anorexia in particular – have traditionally been viewed as a female problem and have been variously linked to the fashion industry, the media portrayal of women, and peer pressure at vulnerable stages in young women’s lives. However, this worrying trend that reveals the extent to which men are also prone to eating issues means that there needs to be a shift in the way that the problems are diagnosed and treated.

Men’s therapist Dr Phil Tyson recently stated that men are exhibiting similar cultural pressures as women to become ‘beautiful’.

Men are adopting a number of unhealthy habits in order to achieve male perfection, including poor diet, exercise addiction and steroid use.  There has been a rise in cases of ‘bigorexia’ a compulsive addiction to building muscle. 

There are a number of avenues open to sufferers in terms of help, treatment and support but it is believed that many more men than women may be suffering alone. Firstly, the problem is not as widely publicised, understood or addressed amongst men so the issues could well go unnoticed for longer. Secondly, because of the associations of eating problems with women, men may be less likely to seek help. The stigma and embarrassment of admitting to having an eating disorder could well prevent men from speaking to a doctor or other health professional, or seeking help from a charity.

Society is used to hearing about cases of young girls with anorexia but this can be to the detriment of other ‘at risk’ groups. It is true that young women are still much more likely to suffer from an eating disorder but the research has alerted health professionals and charities to the fact that no group in the population is immune. Eating problems in young women are more likely to be diagnosed, as we are culturally and socially programmed to link eating disorders to this group. However, male sufferers have traditionally been seen as a tiny minority and symptoms may well have been missed or dismissed. Hopefully these new findings will bring the issue of eating disorders amongst the male population to the fore. By educating society and acknowledging the extent of the problem, more men will be encouraged to admit they have eating issues and seek help to overcome them.

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