Despite some quite high profile cases of Male Eating Disorders including Peter Andre, Paul Gascoigne, David Coulthard, the athlete Colin Jackson, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, even John Prescott revealed he was bulimic – the awareness, diagnosis and treatment of Eating Disorders in men is shamefully low in the UK.
Any man can be affected with an Eating Disorder but there is a higher prevalence in the gay community and also amongst sportsmen – football, gymnasts, marathon runners, jockeys.
On the whole, Eating Disorders are a coping mechanism. They are a way of managing internal emotional stress and regulating overwhelming emotions. In addition, the disorder can be born out of low-esteem combined with perfectionism.
The triggers that can initiate the illness in men, however, can be different from women and these issues need to be recognised. Triggers include:
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The biggest issue with male eating disorders are that they are more likely to go undetected. Symptoms are frequently not spotted by health professionals because they don’t believe that eating disorders affect men.
The other issue is that the definition of an eating disorder is very female-centric and based around weight. For men, it is less likely to be based on weight and more likely to be focused on shape and wanting to re-sculpt their bodies.
Eating Disorders can also manifest differently in men – for example, men often desire bigger muscle mass and may consider pectoral implants or abusing steroids or excessive and dangerous working out in the gym.
This has been referred to as ‘bigorexia’ or Muscle Dysmorphia when a person becomes obsessed with the notion that they are not muscular enough and wish to ‘bulk up’ in contrast to the female longing to ‘slim down’.
Those who suffer from Muscle Dysmorphia tend to hold the belief that they are “skinny” or “too small” but are often above average build.
Many individuals do not seek help with their disordered eating as they don’t believe that they are ill and do not wish treatment.
The effects of an Eating Disorder can cause a number of health problems including impaired functioning of the heart and osteoporosis, where bones become brittle and weak.
At Clinical Partners we have a team of specialists who are experienced in helping men recover from eating disorders. By calling us in confidence on 0203 326 9160 we can discuss you situation and recommend a specialist in men’s eating disorder who can help you.