Eating disorders are often thought of as an illness that only impacts women, but that's not true. Men get eating disorders too. It's a complex issue for a multitude of reasons, some of which are:
- Eating disorders in men are often undiagnosed. The men themselves sometimes don't recognize the eating disorder because they were never taught about it, and most of what they heard was about how it impacts women. It also may not be identified by clinicians who aren't trained to recognize the signs of eating disorders in men. There is also a stigma about having an eating disorder, and a double-stigma about being a dude with an eating disorder, so sometimes men don't seek treatment due to shame.
- Our assessment tools were developed for women. Therefore, they may not be capturing the nuances of eating disorders in men. For example, most assessment tools look for drive for thinness in women. This may not be as frequently true for men for whom the societal body image ideal is muscularity rather than thinness.
- Most of the research on eating disorders has been done on women. The treatments we have were developed based on research almost always done on women. Treatment may need to be different for men in order for it to be effective.
- Popular belief, even among eating disorder specialists is that 10% of eating disorders are in men, when in fact 25-40% of people with eating disorders are men (Hudson, 2007). It's a much bigger issue than has been previously recognized.
- A large proportion of eating disorder therapists and dietitians are women. I couldn't find any literature about the impact of the gender of the clinician in the therapeutic relationship in eating disorders with men.
For more information visit The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders.
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