It’s not uncommon for people to think that eating disorders are conditions that are almost exclusively limited to women. However, there is evidence that approximately 25 percent of people diagnosed with disorders like anorexia and bulimia are men. At our eating disorder treatment center in California, we encourage men to seek help for their condition, and families, friends, and the community in general to be understanding about the fact that both women and men suffer from eating disorders.
Cultural Pressure toward an Idealized Image
Both men and women are continually subjected to images — often altered — of models with the “perfect” physique. It’s no wonder that we are often left feeling sad and frustrated at our inability to attain an unreasonable (and often unhealthy) goal. For women, this image centers on being slender. For men, one version of the “ideal” body involves having large, well-defined muscles.
In trying to live up to this standard, some men develop what is called muscle dysmorphic disorder (MDD). They become obsessive about weight training and bodybuilding, and they make their physical appearance their top priority. When they “fail” in any way that impacts their physique, they feel intense anxiety. As with other eating disorders, there are other negative side effects to MDD as well, including excessive weight loss, stress fractures and other injuries, depression, and strained relationships with family and friends.
And MDD is just one of the conditions that affect men. They also develop anorexia, bulimia, and virtually every other eating disorder.
Saying Goodbye to the Strong, Silent Type
There was a time when women supposedly had a preference for the “strong, silent type.” Whether or not that was actually true (it may have just been a catch phrase made popular by Hollywood), it’s time for men and the people who support them to stop being silent about their eating disorders.
These conditions are mental illnesses that should not be dismissed or excused because, “Mike’s just really into working out.” Mike needs help. And while it may be uncomfortable for him to ask for it, it’s critical that he gets it. The caring friends and family of a man with an eating disorder owe it to him to open a dialogue with him and encourage him to take action to address the illness.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, we have programs that can help at our eating disorder treatment center in California. Call 916-784-1120 to learn more.