By Julianna Hindemith, Silver Linings volunteer
It is a common misconception that eating disorders are only experienced by young women. Individuals who are impacted by eating disorders, and the health professionals who treat them, know that this is not the case. In fact, research indicates that at least 25% of individuals with eating disorders are male.
Sadly, only 10% of those admitted into eating disorder treatment centres in Canada are male. This seems to speak to the lack of awareness of eating disorders in males, and is likely why the vast majority of eating disorder research focuses on females. In addition, eating disorders in males often go undiagnosed and untreated due to social stigma.
For the reasons above, many researchers believe that the 25% estimate may not accurately reflect all of the males who are struggling with eating disorders.
The British Columbia Centres For Excellence In Eating Disorders conducted a study a few years ago that focused on males admitted to the inpatient eating disorders unit. Their studies concluded that 80% of these males named “excessive exercise” as a symptom of their disordered relationship with their bodies. They also discovered that 9% of males admitted to binge eating or overeating, and 5% admitted to purging food. These results mirrored the female in-patients’ symptoms and behaviours.
This would seem to suggest that both females and males struggle with similar body image issues.
It is so important to recognize that eating disorders do not discriminate based on gender. We must continue to raise awareness of the impact of eating disorders in males so that they can feel safe to join the conversation and get the support that they deserve.
If you are a male who is experiencing an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to a trusted family member, friend, school or health professional about what you are going through. Support is also available through the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) by telephone, 1-866-NEDIC-20; email email@example.com; and chat, nedic.ca
P.S. The video below is a trailer for the 2015 documentary Millstone, which focuses on males and eating disorders. I consider it to be an honest film that speaks to everything that I cannot regarding males and their experiences with these devastating mental illnesses.
*TRIGGER WARNING. The video contains information about eating disorders which may be triggering to those recovering or recovered. https://youtu.be/RUQ2uPlrsD8