The National Eating Disorder Association explains that eating disorders are a treatable mental illness that can affect anyone, no matter their age, race, sex, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. It is known that a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors influence the susceptibility and developing of an eating disorder. The stigma behind eating disorders states that it is primarily a woman’s disorder – which is holding men back from recognizing and seeking treatment.
Researchers from the UK found that although eating disorders are increasing common in young men, the fact that eating disorders are viewed as a woman’s disorder is inhibiting men from recognizing the behavior symptoms of having one. Men are recognizing their eating disorder later, making them more entrenched in the disorder and less receptive to treatment. In addition to the stigma surrounding eating disorders, cultural standards for men regarding expressing their tribulations and feelings are causing them to withhold seeking help.
A 2013 study titled “Treatment Challenges for Men with Eating Disorders” noted important hurdles that men face. Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre in Toronto, Ontario, exclaimed,
“Males are taught to repress their feelings to the point where they have difficulty even identifying what they are feeling. So much of it has to do with how we manage our emotions and we how we solve our problems. If we displace our emotions and problems onto our bodies, we are more likely to be at risk for harmful behaviors.”
Another rising issue is how men are dealing with their hidden emotions – the 2013 study notes that over-exercising is quite common because men feel they aren’t exercising enough and eventually they over-commit to it. Dr. Ted Weltzin, director of eating disorder services at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, stated, “The exercise becomes compulsive. They feel they have to do it.” Changing the stigma behind eating disorders and providing more information on the symptoms may help more people step forward and seek help.
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