Men Experience Eating Disorders Too!
By Katie Klein, Clinical Director, Mirasol PHP and IOP
"Eating disorders are a girl's disease." Those words came directly from one of the male clients who admitted to Mirasol. He was starving himself and binging and purging on a daily basis in an effort to look like the men he saw in magazines. He was full of shame and self-loathing, especially for being a guy with an eating disorder. People around him exhibited a lack of understanding about the prevalence of eating disorders in boys and men, contributing to this young man's suffering in silence.
The truth is that while 20 million women experience eating disorders, 10 million males do as well. Men have been stigmatized in recent years for coming forward, and others may be unaware that they have an eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the most widely-quoted study estimates that males have a lifetime prevalence of .3% for anorexia nervosa (AN), .5% for bulimia nervosa (BN) and 2% for binge eating disorder (BED). These figures correspond to males representing 25% of individuals with AN and BN and 36% of those with BED. They are based on DSM-IV criteria (Hudson, 2007).
Men are often under-diagnosed by professionals, and keep their eating disorders a secret in fear of being characterized as "feminine" or "gay". At Mirasol, we see both boys and men engaging in eating disordered behaviors for various reasons, including the need to maintain a certain weight or physique for athletics, as well as wanting to achieve the lean, muscular, male "ideal". In some of these cases, they start out only wanting to "get fit" or start eating "healthier", and the behaviors turn into obsessions. In other cases, male clients have developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for the stressors they are experiencing in their lives.
In reality, eating disorders do not discriminate, and affect males and females of every race and socio-economic background. It is vital to increase awareness and de-stigmatization of eating disorders, in an effort to help more males come forward and seek treatment.
Mirasol offers comprehensive, gender-sensitive, holistic treatment for eating disorders for adult males ages 18 and up at the Adult PHP and IOP levels, and boys ages 12-17 in our Residential Adolescent program.