The pressure our society puts on women to be slim and the link between this and the manifestation of eating disorders as a result is becoming increasingly apparent. However, the negative impact that societal ideals have on men is often overlooked. With 10% of eating disorder sufferers being male and even more predicted to be going unreported, investigating the effect of the pressure put on men to be lean, large, and muscular is becoming more and more important.
The Pressure to Be Perfect
Society’s image of the ideal male physique is low in fat, high in muscle, and generally broad. However, short of surgery, for many, achieving this is almost impossible. Those who believe it is possible will often turn to drastic methods to achieve this. For example, compulsive over-exercising to shred body fat and increase muscle mass can be very common in men, as, on the surface, this seems like a logical way of achieving their perfect body.
It’s thought that anorexia in men is more common than statistics suggest due to misconceptions and misinformation. Many believe anorexia to be an eating disorder where you simply starve yourself and refuse to eat, which is why many men who in generally have higher basal metabolic rates (BMRs) and therefore need a higher amount of food find it hard to empathize. However, anorexia is typically characterized by restrictive eating, not necessarily constant fasting. An average male could be consuming a thousand calories a day, but this would still be restrictive and the obsession with food and weight is what makes the disorder, not the exact amount you’re eating. This misconception is likely to be why many men who suffer from anorexia don’t believe they are and don’t seek help.
Similarly, bulimic men tend to turn to over-exercising in order to burn the calories consumed during a binge, rather than self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse. Because this method of purging is less violent and more “healthy” by society’s standards, it’s not typically viewed by men as a problem and definitely not as an eating disorder.
These eating disorders in men carry the same health risks as eating disorders in women. However, in many ways, they can be worse due to the shame that surrounds them and the fact that many men don’t view themselves as “sick enough” to get help. The disorder will therefore become worse. To prevent this, treatment in the form of therapy is needed in order to improve self-esteem and rationalize fears when it comes to food and weight.
Finding the Best Anorexia, Bulimia, and Eating Disorder Treatment for Men
Treatment options are varied, ranging from intensive inpatient programs to support groups and nutrition counseling.
Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are generally viewed by society as women’s illnesses, but a large number of men also suffer from these harmful disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 10 million men in the United States will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives, and 10% of all eating disorder sufferers who receive help from mental health professionals are male.
Although some men feel embarrassed or reluctant to get help, finding an appropriate treatment option is absolutely essential. Treatment options are varied, ranging from intensive inpatient programs to support groups and nutrition counseling. Use these facts and figures to find the best eating disorder treatment for your situation.
Do Men Need Treatment for Eating Disorders?
No matter how strong men feel, their eating disorders are just as dangerous as those that impact women. Psychologists agree that men’s eating disorders are generally indistinguishable from women’s eating disorders in a clinical sense.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, as stated in the American Journal of Psychiatry; however, according to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, only 1 in 10 sufferers of either gender receives treatment. No matter how severe the condition, those suffering from binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder need to seek some type of support or treatment.
The Benefits of Inpatient Treatment Programs
Although outpatient programs and support groups are helpful treatment options, an adult inpatient program provides the most intensive treatment regimen, including a structured, supportive recovery environment, psychotherapy, life skills counseling, and controlled therapeutic meals. Eating disorder facilities generally offer full-time, qualified staff members who include psychiatrists, psychologists and registered dieticians.
Additionally, inpatient programs help patients who need medical assistance, providing nurses who monitor vital signs and administer nasogastric feeding to supplement the patient’s diet, if necessary. After undergoing an inpatient program, individuals generally receive help developing an aftercare plan to keep them on the right track.
The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Programs
Individuals who are not in immediate medical danger and do not require partial hospitalization have the option of undergoing an intensive outpatient program (IOP), allowing them to receive treatment discretely. Most IOP programs take place several hours per day on a few chosen days of the week. Flexible schedules allow patients to begin recovering without sacrificing work, school, or other daily activities. IOD programs generally include psychotherapy, nutritional education, and skills-based eating disorder support groups.
Eating Disorder Support Groups and Therapy Groups for Men
Men suffering from eating disorders of every type and severity benefit from therapy groups and support groups, which are professionally facilitated groups that give sufferers a chance to share their thoughts and fears while benefiting from the eating disorder stories of their peers. These are often held during the evening at hospitals and treatment centers, and some eating disorder facilities offer therapy groups specifically for men.
Open groups are support groups that allow individuals to drop in without pre-registering, providing a great option for those who are not ready to fully commit but who want to explore the experience. Friends and family support groups are offered by many facilities as well. Online support groups are offered by organizations such as Mentor Connect and the National Association for Males With Eating Disorders on their websites.
Nutritional Counseling and Fitness Retraining
Services such as nutritional counseling and fitness retraining offered by many eating disorder treatment centers keep patients on the continued path to recovery by instilling essential skills. Nutritional counseling aims to stabilize the patient’s nutrition before helping him develop healthy beliefs and habits concerning food. A trained professional helps each patient to develop a personalized meal plan. When necessary, patients receive nutrition prescriptions to help them balance electrolytes, stabilize weight, or reverse malnutrition.
Fitness retraining programs help eating disorder sufferers who exercise excessively, which is particularly common with anorexia nervosa. Fitness retraining assists sufferers in developing a healthy relationship with exercise. In these types of sessions, patients challenge popular media views concerning fitness and develop a healthy exercise regimen tailored to their needs.
Is a Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Center Right for You?
A dual-diagnosis treatment center aims to treat both an addiction and an underlying mental illness. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, 50% of all individuals with eating disorders meet the criteria for clinical depression. An underlying mental illness is sometimes the cause of an eating disorder, but oftentimes the dual conditions simply result from the same environmental and social factors. Dual-diagnosis centers commonly use therapy, behavioral management programs, and medication to treat an eating disorder and associated mental illness. A good dual-diagnosis program uses an integrated approach, developing a unique treatment regime for each individual patient.
Finding an Eating Disorder Treatment Center Near You
You normally do not need to travel far to find a good treatment center, as they are offered in most major US cities. Faith-based treatment centers are a promising option for religious individuals. If there are no dedicated eating disorder facilities in your area, search for eating disorder programs at hospitals, mental health centers, and substance abuse centers. The website of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders provides a search tool that lets you find treatment centers by state.