One in ten young adults and approximately 25 percent of children diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are male (1).
This figure could be even higher given that traditionally guys are less likely to seek help, especially because the common belief is that anorexia and bulimia are female conditions.
Dr John Morgan, a consultant psychiatrist and director of the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders in Leeds, has confirmed this fact. He told the Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Liverpool that growing numbers of young men are increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies and that the number of young heterosexual men falling prey to anorexia and bulimia is increasing. In addition, the gap in the numbers of gay and straight men with eating disorders is closing. Males are also more likely to be misdiagnosed with depression or schizophrenia, and less likely to be given treatment.
Dr Morgan said: "By the time they go for treatment, the disorder is much further down the line ... it's not just their reluctance - it's the system putting up barriers."
Images of skeletal models or men with 'six-packs', as well as a multitude of choices now open to men, is at the root of body dissatisfaction, Dr Morgan said.
"To be a young man is our society is a difficult thing. What you do and who you are is less straightforward. Women were challenged decades ago to consider which of the many different social roles they adopted. Now men are having to respond to the choices that society gives them."
In my recently published book, 'Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues' there is an entire chapter dedicated to males and eating disorders because of the alarming increase in not only anorexia and bulimia amongst males, but bigorexia and muscle dysmorphia. 17 per cent of males are on some form of diet and steriod abuse and exercise disorders are increasing in the young male population (2).
This illustrates how drastically guys too are suffering from low self esteem and body image issues.
I've expressed in previous posts, the need to increase the awareness of the dangers of dieting as well as strategies to triumph over these devastating illnesses. Now more than ever we need to help our young adults realise that a positive body image starts on the inside - how they perceive themselves amidst parental, societal and peer pressure - and encourage them to honour their individuality and uniqueness. We need to let them know that they are loved and importantly, that they are enough.
To read the article, go here:
(1) Paxton, S. (1998) 'Do men get eating disorders?', Everybody - Newsletter of Body Image and Health Inc., vol. 2, August, p.41
(2) Weekend Australian, April 1999