When it comes to eating disorders, the stereotype that comes spontaneously is a young teenager suffering from anorexia because she finds herself too fat.
This is not the case.
While most eating disorders affect women of all ages, suffering mainly from bulimia or hyperphagia, men are unfortunately not spared.
While official prevalence figures differ from one country to another (1 in 3 people suffering from eating disorders in the United States, 1 in 10 in France), men are less easily diagnosed than women.
There are significant differences in the manifestation of eating disorders in men and women.
Men are generally older, and have greater tendencies to other psychiatric disorders (such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse).
Among men, suicidal behavior is also more frequent.
Regarding their weight, men who suffer from eating disorders are more often overweight than women and are less likely to adopt typical purging behaviors such as vomiting and taking laxatives.
On the other hand, they are more likely to use physical exercise as compensatory behavior.
Indeed, according to some studies, the most common disorders in men are musculoskeletal eating disorders or muscular dysmorphia, also known as bigorexia.
In this disorder, the desired body type is not thinner, as seen in traditional female anorexia, but larger and more muscular. This corresponds to the traditional societal vision of the ideal male body. The main symptom of muscle dysmorphia is the fear of not being muscular enough.
Associated symptomatic behaviours often include compulsive exercise, eating disorders characterized by protein or steroid supplementation that improve performance.
The researchers also observed phases of “cheat meal” more frequent than in women.
These meals are planned, high-calorie meals. These behaviours have significant medical risks.
Why is it less known?
Mainly because of cultural prejudice, men are reportedly less likely to seek help, talk about their eating disorder, and seek treatment.
When they do, it is often after many years of illness that complicates care.
These cultural prejudices include the fact that eating disorders are generally known as feminine, or gay.
Although there may be relatively more eating disorders in the male gay community, most men with eating disorders are heterosexual. One study found few links between sexual orientation and the incidence of eating disorders.
Like women, the treatment of an eating disorder requires multidisciplinary follow-up, including at least a general practitioner or paediatrician, a nutritionist or dietician, and psychological follow-up.
In hospitals, to date, current treatments are unfortunately more suitable for women than for men.
In hospital treatment, men and boys may not feel at home when they are surrounded by a majority of women. Whenever possible, an all-male treatment environment is recommended, whenever possible.
In any case, studies show that men respond equally well to treatment as women.
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