What are eating disorders in men?
Eating disorders in men are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that are classified as a formal psychiatric condition and include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and more.
Any mention of eating disorders tends to recall the image of a lean teenager starving. In reality, victims can come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be thin to have an eating disorder, you don’t have to be a woman. It can happen to anyone, at any age.
While it is considered a Western disease that affects young women of a certain social status, it is now prevalent in Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan. Although the term is primarily associated with the medical condition anorexia nervosa, and to some extent associated with bulimia nervosa, it includes overeating disorders and eating disorders unspecified (EDNOS).
It was once thought that only 10 per cent of eating disorder patients were men. Just like their female counterparts, men with eating disorders will restrict their intake of food, watch what they eat like hawks, and constantly exercise. Some men may desire to be thin but mostly they want to be lean and muscular, focusing on specific parts of their body such as their arms, shoulders, thighs, and abdomen.
Causes of eating disorders in men
Although more research is needed to determine the full cause, the increase in the number of men with an eating disorder is due to the following:
- A greater understanding of eating disorders and their symptoms can lead men to seek help or parents and family members to seek help on their behalf.
- It is now recognized that this disease is not the only female disease. With less associated stigma, it is less embarrassing to ask for help.
- Another reason is that men can no longer escape the ideal body shape. For example, men’s magazines show images of men with striated muscles, very defined abs, and slim bodies.
- In recent years a new eating disorder has emerged. This is known as bigorexia or reverses anorexia or muscle dysmorphia disorder in which the person (usually the male) is engaged in muscle building and feels that he has never been muscular.
Some signs and symptoms of an eating disorder in men
- Sudden or rapid weight loss, frequent weight changes
- Constant diet, overeating
- Compulsive or excessive exercise
- Fatigue, epilepsy, weakness
- Preview with weight, shape, and shape
- Severe dissatisfaction with body image.
- Severe fear of weight gain.
- Feeling out of control with food
- A change in food preferences that includes good/bad food lists.
- Avoid social events that involve food.
- Even withdrawal or loneliness from social interaction
- Very sensitive to comments on diet, body size, and shape.
If these symptoms seem familiar, it is a good idea to seek help in advance and get an official evaluation from an eating disorder specialist.
What happens when a person does not eat?
Our bodies use food as fuel to keep all vital organs and cells in good working order. When a person does not eat, her body does not get the fuel it needs, and then the organs and parts of the body suffer.
Heart and circulation: The heart is a muscle that contracts and weakens when a person does not eat. It can cause circulatory problems and irregular or very slow heartbeats. Hunger lowers blood pressure and can make a person feel dizzy while standing.
Stomach: The stomach becomes smaller when a person does not eat, so when they eat again, the stomach feels uncomfortable (stomach aches and/or gas). Also, the stomach does not empty faster, a person will feel longer.
Intestines: The intestines move food slowly, causing constipation (difficulty in defecation) and/or abdominal pain or cramps during meals.
Brain: The brain that controls the rest of the body does not function properly without food. For example, a person may have trouble thinking clearly or paying attention, they may also feel anxious and sad.
Cells of the body: The balance of electrolytes in the blood can be disturbed by malnutrition or dehydration. Without food, the amount of potassium and phosphorus is dangerously low, which can cause problems with muscle and brain function. Low levels of potassium or phosphorus can also cause deadly heart rhythm problems.
Bones: When a person does not eat, their bones often become weak due to low levels of calcium and hormones, which now increases the risk of bone fracture (such as a stress fracture) and develops weaker bones with age.
Body temperature: the body naturally lowers its temperature when hungry to save energy and protect vital organs. When this happens, blood flow (blood flow) to the fingers and toes decreases, often making the hands and feet look cold and bluish.
Skin: The skin becomes dry when the body is not well hydrated and does not get enough vitamins and minerals from food. The skin naturally protects the body from hunger by developing fine, soft hair called “lanugo” that covers the skin to keep it warm.
Hair: When hair does not receive enough nutrition from the vitamins and minerals found naturally in the diet, it becomes dry, thin, and also falls out.
Nails: Nails need nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals from food. When a person does not eat, the nails dry out, become brittle, and break easily.
Teeth: Teeth are the bones that need vitamin D and calcium from food sources. Without these two minerals, a person can end up with dental problems like cavities and gum disease. Cleaning also destroys tooth enamel.
How eating disorders affect men
Most men and boys who struggle with an eating disorder do so in silence: while a quarter of those with an eating disorder is men, only one in twenty is receiving treatment. Eating disorder psychologist Gia Marson, who works with men and women in her Los Angeles practice, said part of the problem is that men have historically missed a wide range of conversations about body image, eating disorders, and Recovery. Our silence keeps men silent.
To give men a chance to heal, Marson says, we must first identify who is suffering and why they are suffering. That means providing a compassionate landing platform for kids and boys to fight the eating disorders and women’s issues of food culture, as well as the idea of developing emotional trust and communication in our guys.
If you or a loved one has an eating disorder, the first thing to know is that you are not alone. The second is that recovery is possible. To learn more about the diagnosis, and treatment of eating disorder in men, our guide to eating disorder recovery centres, Dr. Neer Bakshi, along with Marson on our myths about eating disorders and the relationship between disorders food and trauma, check out our research on orthorexia and anorexia nervosa.
Evaluation and treatment for an eating disorder in men
Several studies suggest that men and women have a similar response to treatment. 25-27 In general, treatment for men with an eating disorder focuses on 3 important aspects:
- Weight loss will be followed by constant fatigue and tiredness.
- Identify and challenge mistakes in thinking about diet, weight, and shape using T CBT.
Identify barriers that should ideally be addressed to improve the recovery response and ultimately increase the chances of a full recovery. These can be grouped and include other concurrent Axis I mental conditions, such as addiction, anxiety, or drug abuse disorders; Negative treatment experiences; And traumatic experiences like sexual harassment or bullying.
Weight regain: Nutritional intervention for men with anorexia nervosa includes weight loss, weight restoration, and normalization of eating behavior. The information available to guide us in determining what is normal weight or weight is more for women than men. For 28 women, guidelines for determining body weight for recovery include a return to normal structural function. For underweight male patients with hypothalamic hypogonadism and osteoporosis, measurements of serum testosterone levels are unclear but can help assess nutritional status. Study results suggest that patient education on the negative impact of malnutrition on physical health can be effective in challenging beliefs about eating disorders and facilitating treatment progression. 29 Adequate weight history, adolescent growth charts, and family traits can also help.
Ideally, the amount of weight gained should be determined by a physician or dietitian with experience in eating disorders. During the weight gain phase, patients should be strongly advised to significantly limit or avoid excessive physical activity. Anxiety about gaining weight should be aimed at building self-esteem and coping skills, as well as exploring the history of an eating disorder related to body weight, such as teasing or bullying.
Men tend to overestimate muscles in terms of body image and therefore pay more attention to building muscle with weight gain and are more afraid of body fat, while women are more concerned with any type of muscle gain. weight or increase in size. Men are more afraid of fats and carbohydrates in their diet compared to women who generally avoid high calories. It is also important to address very firm and limited dietary behaviours in terms of food types, as they often reduce resistance to food and the effect of treatment.
CBT: Based on clinical experience, CBT may be the most effective treatment for men with an eating disorder. CBT provides patients with a framework for eating disorder symptoms and for working on anxiety and affective disorders. Additionally, CBT can help identify and challenge errors when thinking about diet, weight, body image, and exercise drive.
Men with an eating disorder externally shift stress and are generally comfortable talking about their feelings, negative experiences, or life events. CBT provides an understandable and structured approach that addresses outsourcing trends and facilitates the positive exploration of ideas and feelings.
For men and women, the average time between illness and treatment is about 5 years. 30 patients often report feeling compelled to seek treatment. Participation in therapy for male patients can be facilitated through the use of all-male treatment groups. In these groups, men view eating other men as “girly” issues discussing the symptoms of the disorder, and they experience an appropriate emotional expression that is more strongly identified than weakness.
Try to get more exercise: As part of treatment, it is often necessary to address excessive exercise behaviours. Ideally, treatment should be personalized for the patient based on fitness beliefs and behaviour of followers. Getting supplemental information from parents, former healthcare, and behavioural health providers, and coaches are recommended because patients generally downplay these behaviours and are often reluctant to identify exercise behaviours as ineffective.
For the treatment of underweight individuals, all but most physical activities are discontinued until weight regain is satisfactory. After a positive response to the nutritional and other components of the treatment, fitness activities are introduced slowly and re-sponsors are closely monitored. This level of care can be very difficult for most people with an eating disorder, but especially for athletes or those who identify closely with athletics.
Men with an eating disorder who come in for treatment for exercise problems are generally divided into 3 groups. First, some use exercise behaviours addictively to improve mood. These patients report a history of behaviours such as lying to family and friends about their exercise and using exercise to avoid difficult emotions. When exercise is discontinued in a structured therapeutic setting, patients experience symptoms of moderate to severe irritability and sometimes increased depression. These patients benefit from exploring the source of their dedication and how it led to irregular eating.
The second group of patients underwent compulsive exercise. They have high ritual exercise behaviours that cause anxiety when interrupted. These patients often have obsessive-compulsive symptoms unrelated to exercise. These patients are treated with ritual exposure and prevention, as well as experiential therapy.
Finally, the third group was made up of patients with imbalances with a commitment to fitness and athletics combined with a problematic diet. Like the first group, these patients also benefit from exploring the source of their dedication and how it led to irregular eating.