While often thought of as a problem affecting women, it is estimated that around one-quarter of people suffering from anorexia and bulimia are males, and almost equal numbers of males and females suffer from binge eating disorder. Body dissatisfaction in men is also increasing and now close to that of females, although men tend to aspire to a lean, muscular physique rather than a low body weight.

Risk factors for an eating disorder include perfectionism, bullying, dieting, trauma and childhood obesity. Male athletes are more at risk, particularly those in sports and activities that focus on weight and aesthetics, such as weight lifters, wrestlers, body builders, gymnasts, dancers and jockeys.

There are many warning signs of an eating disorder, which are similar in men and women, but those which are more common in males are listed in the box on the right.

The good news is that recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but the sooner someone gets help, the shorter the recovery period. Unfortunately, men often take longer to be diagnosed and seek help due to the stigma around eating disorders being a ‘female problem’ and a lack of services designed to specifically meet their needs.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR…

  • A preoccupation with body building
  • Continuing to do weight training when injured
  • Feeling anxious or stressed about missing workouts
  • Muscular weakness
  • Using anabolic steroids
  • Lowered testosterone
  • A reduced interest in, or fears around sex

So if you have an eating disorder (or suspect that someone you know does), it’s important to seek help immediately. Start with seeing your GP, who can help you to determine the support you need and refer you to practitioners with specialised skills in managing eating disorders.

For more information call the National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NEDC) helpline on 1800 334 673 for free, confidential support or visit their website.

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