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Uncovering the Truth About Eating Disorders in Men

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When we are thinking about eating disorders, we typically think about women. Movies, shows and the media often highlight the struggles of women trying to be a perfect size.  However, the National Institute of Mental Health found that roughly one million men struggle with eating disorders and others believe that number to be higher.  While much remains to be studied about eating disorders in men, we know that there are differences in how eating disorders present in men and how they are treated. At Thrive Treatment, we embrace these differences and can assist men struggling with eating disorders.  

Why Don’t We Talk About Eating Disorders in Men?

Researchers have found that men represent between ten and twenty-five percent of all eating disorder patients.  Whether there has been an increase in the number of men with eating disorders or the number of men seeking treatment is unknown.  It is known that eating disorders present differently in men, which may be why they go unnoticed. 

The factors that predispose men to eating disorders are similar to those for women with some significant differences. Women who develop eating disorders feel that they are fat while being at a healthy weight.  Conversely, many men who develop an eating disorder typically are or have been obese at some point in their lives. Adding to the confusion, some men with eating disorders may gain weight and muscle, which may not present as an eating disorder. Both men and women who develop eating disorders may also have a history of sexual abuse, trauma, chemical dependency, and media pressures. 

Different Types of Eating Disorders Men Struggle With

Men may struggle with eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, anorexia athleticism, and muscle dysmorphia. Anorexia athleticism sees men using exercise excessively either with or without caloric restrictions. Muscle dysmorphia is similar but will often see the individual obsessed with certain parts of the body, muscle mass, or body size.  Muscle dysmorphia can be even more dangerous if the individual has added in the use of steroids or growth hormones. Anorexia nervosa, often referred to as anorexia, is characterized by abnormally low body weight, a distorted perception of weight, and an extreme fear of gaining any weight. While also concerned with weight, bulimia nervosa often involves a dangerous cycle of binging and purging. No matter what the disorder, all eating disorders can have serious health consequences if not treated. 

How to Get Proper Help With an Eating Disorder

Treatment for men with eating disorders is similar to the treatment for females but with some differences. The most significant differences will revolve around acknowledging that body image concerns for men and women are very different.  While women may be striving for unattainable thinness, men may be aiming for an impossible muscular physique.  Other aspects of treatment will vary depending on the individual’s health, trauma, substance use, and personal history. Most treatment programs will incorporate individual and group behavioral therapy.  Some may include some substance use disorder components if needed. 

How Thrive Treatment Can Help With an Eating Disorder

At Thrive Treatment, we believe in an approach that blends modern and traditional practices. We integrate relational and behavioral therapies and holistic, medical, and psychiatric interventions to address eating disorders, substance use disorders, and other mental health issues. Located in Santa Monica, we have what is needed to provide you with an individualized plan. We’re also here to help you and your family understand the process and get help. Contact us today and let us help you and your teen face any mental health issues.  

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