Breaking the Silence: Eating Disorders and the men who suffer

Eating disorders are commonly associated as a struggle that only women go through even commonly referred to as a “woman’s disease”. Preoccupation with image, body,  and self is highly associated to be issues that women struggle with and think about. I am here to break the silence and inform you that this stereotype is far from true. The reality is that out of the 8 millions people who suffer from Eating Disorders in the US 10 percent of them are male. In fact between 1999 and 2009 the government estimates indicate that the number of males admitted to hospitals for complications from eating disorders rose by a whopping 53 percent. Recent studies and surveys show that young males have admitted to vomiting, restricting or have used laxatives to control their weight as well as taken diet pills. This can be rather shocking as men stereotypically are not thought of to suffer from an eating disorder. I estimate that the rate of men who suffer is probably a lot higher but the embaressment and shame that many men feel stops them from speaking out and seeking treatment for themselves. I am here to shed some light that yes men suffer from eating disorders too.

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I can speak on this personally because I have worked in three residential treatment centers and I have seen many young boys and men come into treatment. I have seen boys as young as 10 and the ages range up to the age of 50. Speaking with these boys and men shed so much insight into the gripping affect body image and pressure that men themselves can feel. I have noticed this especially among male athletes who must meet weight requirments for different types of sports. Men feel their own pressure to achieve a certain look or body image type.

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Today men are more aware and conscious of their bodies. Media portrays the look of lean, fit built men with muscles and depending on the sport or peer groups, more men are feeling pressured to achieve a certain look. I have noticed that especially men who are involved with wrestling, running, football and other sports feel intense pressure to be above or under a certain weight class. This leads men to either overeat, restrict, purge or use laxatives to meet this criteria. The bottom line is we need to end the stereotypes that eating disorders are a woman’s disease. I want to educate and increase the awareness that an eating disorder can affect anyone! No matter what your age, gender, status etc eating disorders are on the rise and affecting more people. Education needs to start at an early age and that begins with parents and in the schools. We also need to end the shame associated with having an eating disorder. It already is a disorder that those who suffer feel guilt and shame and have a hard time reaching out for help, but the men who suffer feel an even heightened shame to seek help.  Treatment and groups have  traditionally been targeted to women so we need to branch out and make avenues of help more open so people feel more comfortable reaching out. It’s time to end the invisible struggle, its time to break free, its time to heal!

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Eating Disorders and Sex Addiction??!!

I attended a lecture today which discussed the correlation between eating disorders and sex addiction. Now I can’t speak for all of you out there but personally while I do know that eating disorders have a high rate of being intertwined with other disorders or addictions, sex addiction was never an addiction high on my radar. I have worked in several eating disorder treatment facilities and thought back to the people I encountered. I reflected if there were any underlying sexual issues with anyone I had seen. Nothing stood out to me where I thought ” whoa there was sex addiction somewhere there as well”. So when I received an email about this lecture I was intrigued and excited to learn. It was a very informative lecture touching about many different aspects about someone who has an eating disorder and a sex addiction. There are many similarities especially with the urge, fantasy and reward aspects. I know, having worked with many people who suffer from anorexia it was hard for me to initially understand the correlation between anorexia and sex. The speaker made some key associations, much like someone with anorexia starves or restricts, someone can exhibit sexual starvation behaviors, such as pulling away from relationships, love and touch. It can also be the opposite where someone goes through cycles of longing and seeking out relationships and love and touch in a drastic way which can be correlated to a purge like behavior much like that of someone who suffers from bulimia. While this is still a new concept to me in many ways and I am excited to learn more so I can better understand all and any issues that may come up with my clients so I can better assist and help them. I am curious to your thoughts out there! Have you heard of this? Do you know someone who has experience of sufferering from both an eating disorder & sex addiction or are there any questions you have or more you’d like to know about this topic? I hope to hear your thoughts and opinions. Happy Thursday Everyone!