|Eating disorders affect both males and females* in harmful physical and psychological ways. If left untreated, eating disorders can be fatal as the result of premature death from secondary medical complications or self-harm due to depression.
Eating disorders are complex, serious illnesses. Therefore, those with eating disorders need therapy by a treatment team of professionals who specialize in eating disorders.
A great deal has been written on females with eating disorders, and support efforts are aimed towards them. Unfortunately, the subject of males with eating disorders has received little attention in literature, the media, and research. N.A.M.E.D. is committed to filling this gap of lack of understanding and support for males with eating disorders.
Andersen (1992) reported that although both males and females exhibit the same symptoms, there are "differences between the sexes in predisposition, course, and onset" of the disease.
The differences between how males and females experience an eating disorder relates to how they are socialized into the culture. The variables of how males and females experience an eating disorder are analogous to looking through orange and brown tinted sunglasses. The same object is seen with both pairs of sunglasses, but the object seen will have a different color perception.
Below are descriptions of the types of eating disorders and other related issues.
The person with anorexia nervosa is significantly underweight, refuses to maintain a normal or healthy weight, has a distorted body image (- does not see self as emaciated), is terrified of gaining weight, relentlessly pursues thinness, and has rigid rules about what is "safe" and "unsafe" to eat. They may use any of various weight control measures, including fasting, exercising, vomiting, taking diuretics, laxatives, and diet pills.
Bulimics, like anorexics, strive to lose weight, except that the bulimic binges and then purges. One who purges without bingeing would be considered anorexic. Another difference is that the bulimic is usually in a normal weight range. The bulimic finds himself in a relentless struggle with the binge-purge cycle.
BINGE EATING DISORDER
Binge eating or compulsive overeating is characterized by repeated binge eating episodes where one eats more than normally would be expected in a short period of time, usually consuming an enormous number of calories until the point of feeling uncomfortably full or constantly nibbling on food but never feeling satisfied. The person typically feels a loss of control (as if he cannot stop) when engaging in a binge episode. Unlike the bulimic, the binger does not purge or otherwise compensate through weight reductioin measures for the extra calories consumed. Their binges are a source of distress, guilt, shame, and disgust. Bingers are often overweight or obese.
Reverse anorexia or muscular dysmorphia or bigorexia is an illness where the person has a faulty perception of their body size in reality. They think their body is too small or undeveloped when in fact they have good muscle definition and may even be the envy of others. Consequently, these boys and men put in rigorous work outs for hours each day.
This disease affects mostly males, although females have had the condition, too. Hundreds of thousands of men may suffer from bigorexia. As the media and culture promote exceptionally muscular men as the ideal body image and the “real men,” the disease is likely to grow. Bigorexia is most common in body-builders, but not all body-builders have the illness.
Some symptoms of bigorexia include:
· Excessive time spent lifting weights
· Often relationships, work, and other responsibilities are neglected due to the individual’s rigorous exercise schedule
· Constant mirror checking to observe body
· Pre-occupation with body size and work outs
· Cover up, rather than display their body for others to see
· Use of anabolic steroids
Many men are ashamed to admit to their problem, if they even see it as a problem in the first place. It is easy to go undiagnosed, because doctors just think these individuals are just doing the “guy thing” of being avid body-builders. If you think bigorexia is a problem for you, it is important to seek professional help. You need to develop a positive self-image and body-image, develop healthy thinking patterns and behaviors, and work through underlying issues that you are covering up with your obsession.
Orthorexia is not a medically diagnosable eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, however it is a form of disordered eating that requires professional help. While the pursuit of thinness is characteristic of anorexia and bulimia, in orthorexia the person is fanatic about the quality of food that is eaten, not with losing weight. Orthorexic's severely limit their diet in the name of eating pure, healthy, "righteous" food. It's worth noting that someone with orthorexia could also have anorexia. Some symptoms of orthorexia include:
Spends much time thinking about healthy foods and what to eat
Concerned that foods are prepared properly
May eat prepared food without especially liking it
Feels positive self-esteem and in control by eating healthy food
Feels depressed, guilty, and disgusted when straying from diet
Avoids social events that involve eating
Eating according to one's diet precisely all the time interferes with relationships
* Since this website is for and about males with eating disorders, the personal pronoun "he" rather than "she" will be used.
Andersen, A. E. (1992) "Eating Disorders in Males" in Controlling Eating Disorders with Facts, Advice, and Resources by ed. R. Lemberg (Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press) p. 1.