Men and eating disorders - what you tell us
June 11, 2012 at 8:52 AM
Increasingly we receive calls to the helpline from young males and men of all ages. Calls vary enormously in terms of eating difficulties not only eating disorders, as such.
As this week is National Men's Health Week, we thought we'd share some of the things men tell us...
Selective or ‘picky’ eating is a real problem that may have began in childhood continuing into adulthood and can make it difficult to socialise when food is involved. Peer pressure to eat ‘normally’ causes embarrassment and leads sufferers to feel they are inadequate in some way. Food phobias around particular tastes and textures can cause similar problems. Assessment and treatment is important to begin to manage these very difficult issues.
Depression, anxiety, low self esteem, being bullied, stress etc can effect appetite and lead to undereating or overeating. Some males are naturally thin and find it difficult to put on weight feeling they should conform to the muscular stereotype often portrayed in the media. Exercising regularly and eating healthily, for some, develops into addictive and more extreme behaviours such as over excising and rigid diets.
Many callers across numerous cultures, all sexualities and religions, have eating disorders and feel shame that they are unable to make changes alone. Talking to a helpline worker can make a big difference. That someone is not judged but reassured, that they may have an illness that requires treatment, like any illness, often empowers them to approach a professional such as their GP.
A common theme through a large number of calls is a feeling that eating disorders are illnesses affecting young women and it is somehow wrong for a man to suffer from something that ‘only girls’ experience. Again, reassurance by explaining facts can really help. Approximately 180,000 males in the UK are affected by an eating disorder but all too often they are seen as a ‘young girl’s illness’. There is still a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma surrounding eating disorders which can make it even more difficult for a male to admit to having a problem and seeking help.
The helpline also receives many calls from males concerned about a loved one; that may be a partner, son or daughter, family member or friend. Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be, and often is, very hard. Some men feel they should be strong and able to cope or ‘fix the problem’. Talking through concerns, sources of support available and reminding carers to take care of their needs too is important.
While undoubtedly all calls to the helpline are welcome, we are always pleased that males find the courage to seek the help and support they deserve, just like anyone else.
Click here to read the personal story of Rich Armitage who has recovered from an eating disorder.
Helpline Service Coordinator
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