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Male Eating Disorders

People tend to associate eating disorders primarily with women, but men can also have eating disorders. Males often share the same characteristics as women, including low self-esteem and preoccupation with weight. Often, men with eating disorders say that more education is needed to make both the public and the medical profession aware of this growing problem so that men don't feel ashamed to seek help.

An Overview of Male Eating Disorders

Though many people associate eating disorders with women, these illnesses also occur in men. An estimated 5 percent to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia, and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder, are male. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that incidence and prevalence rates are increasing among males.
 
Many boys with eating disorders share the same characteristics as their female counterparts, including low self-esteem, the need to be accepted, an inability to cope with emotional pressures, and family and relationship issues.
 
Males with eating disorders are most commonly seen in specific subgroups. For instance, males who wrestle show a disproportionate increase in eating disorders -- rates 7 to 10 times higher than normal. In addition, homosexual men have an increased rate of eating disorders.
 

Eating Disorders in Males: The Challenges

Diagnosing eating disorders in men can be complicated. Some men are reluctant to seek medical help for disorders that are still primarily considered "women's disorders." Many men simply are ashamed to have an illness of this type, so they suffer in silence.
 
Another problem for men with eating disorders is that a great number of doctors and healthcare professionals are not trained to identify or treat eating disorders in men, especially anorexia. Families, too, often fail to see the symptoms. The illnesses then can progress to a more advanced stage, where they are harder to treat.
 
During recovery, males with eating disorders sometimes are unwilling to participate in support-group sessions because the groups are mostly female.
 
Unlike many women, who acquire eating disorders because they "feel fat," men often are medically obese at some point in the illness and feel pressure to be thin. Sometimes, athletic activities induce this struggle to be lean, prompting not only the eating disorder but also compulsive exercising. Men also may adopt certain behaviors when teased or criticized about being fat at critical development stages, such as puberty.
 
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