The Silent Disorder: Men and Their Eating Issues

A news station in Colorado published online this month a story about a recent college graduate and his struggle with anorexia and bulimia symptoms. ABC News also described another young man’s journey to get treatment for his eating disorder and how in general men can be reluctant to seek treatment because eating disorders are considered a “female problem.” These two men’s stories represent just a small part of how we are beginning to understand more and more how many men have negative views of their bodies and unhealthy relationships with food.

As research into the issue has grown, the true extent of the problem among men has been made apparent. Previous research, such as a study conducted in 1997, indicated that approximately 10% of individuals with eating disorder diagnoses are men. However, in 2007 Harvard researchers conducted a national study of eating disorders in a population of nearly 3,000 adults and found that 25% of those with anorexia or bulimia and 40% of binge eaters were men.

Negative body image also can affect men who appear to have it all in terms of physical fitness. Eating Disorder Hope provided a recent article on how men also struggle with body dysmorphia, now more commonly referred to as muscle dysmorphia. For some men, it does not matter how long or hard they workout; they still view their bodies as not being good enough. Read more here.

Researchers Harrison Pope and co-authors Katharine Phillips and Roberto Olivardia have written extensively on men and body image and refer to muscle dysmorphia as the Adonis Complex. In an interview by Harvard Magazine, Pope describes the double-bind that men find themselves in, where they feel pressure to look a certain way but are also not allowed to admit that they worry about their appearance for fear of being considered effeminate.

Eating disorders are progressive diseases – they don’t get better on their own. They are highly addictive, dangerous to your health, and can ruin relationships. The media have
started to break the silence and give more space and attention to men and their eating issues. There is help available and hope for recovery. At the Susan B. Krevoy Eating Disorder Program we offer a group specific for men, Men in the Mirror: The complicated relationship between masculinity, fitness and food.

Vanessa Pawlowski, Psy.D. – Individual and Group therapist for the Susan B. Krevoy Eating Disorder Program

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.