By Joseph Jacob
In the public’s eye, eating disorders are unfortunately labeled as a ‘feminine disease.’ While often thought to affect only young girls and women, eating disorders are actually fairly common among males. In fact, more than 10% of those with eating disorders are male (Shiltz). However, many men are reluctant to express their eating disorders to others due to the fact that the illness has traditionally been associated with women. Thus, men with eating disorders often refuse to seek treatment and support for fear of being stereotyped as effeminate and labeled weak or vulnerable— characteristics that unfortunately are, by tradition, associated with women and mental illnesses (“Eating Disorders in Males”). This, in conjunction with the other negative stigmas associated with eating disorders, can further diminish an individual’s self-esteem and dishearten them.
Elaborating on the previously-mentioned statistic (1/10 of those with eating disorders being male), studies have shown that there are likely many more undocumented cases of those struggling with the illness (Shiltz). Because, often men, adolescent males, and young boys, embarrassed by their eating disorder, refuse to seek out professional help.
It’s worth noting that men, women, girls, and boys often turn to anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and EDNOS for similar reasons. Often, these males and females seek to achieve a thin, toned or muscular body image so praised by media (not excluding social media) as the paramount of perfection. Of course, eating disorders also find roots in bullying, dieting, trauma, and a history of obesity (“Eating Disorders in Males”). So, because none of these criteria are exclusively male or female, it makes sense that eating disorders are genderless as well, right? Well, the stereotype of the ‘female disease’ seems ever-present, and perhaps greatly affects the way friends and family approach a very serious/dangerous illness.
However, it is not all grim. Today in the United States, we are making historically-strong efforts to engage and include everyone regardless of their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and with a greater effort, their mental illness. By becoming informed and thus, understanding eating disorders— their underlying causes, consequences, and hardships—it’s inevitable that illness will be met by sympathy, compassion, and no longer bear cruel stigma. Because as we become accepting of others regardless of trivial differences, increased awareness of eating disorders will lead to more advocacy, acceptance, and support for those struggling.
"Eating Disorders in Males." Www.nedc.com.au. National Eating Disorders Collaboration, n.d.
Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
Shiltz, Tom. "Research on Males and Eating Disorders." Www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.
NEDA, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.