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Bulimia Nervosa in Men
When talking about eating disorders, we tend to think of them as problems that affect only women or mostly women. However, bulimia can affect men as well and the incidence rates among men is growing. Since few men are treated for this condition, bulimia was considered to be less common in men. However, recent studies claim that the number of men suffering from bulimia is actually increasing. It is not clear yet from these initial findings that the disorder is uncommon among male population is correct, or rather, - that men are less likely to seek help and treatment fearing embarrassment. Also, if men hide or verbally camoflauge their symptoms, it makes it it even more difficult and actually impossible for physicians to detect the presence of an eating disorder and properly address it.
One of the questions that seeks an answer is whether bulimia is different in women than men. According to some sources, bulimia is more alike than dissimilar in men and women. "The underlying emotional and psychological issues of an eating disorder, such as low self esteem and a drive for perfectionism and control are fairly consistent across the genders, which further demonstrates eating disorders are non-discriminatory." (15) However, there are several differences in how men are affected by the disorder. While women are usually close to the average weight point prior to the development of bulimia, men are usually overweight or obese. If the disease onset in women is around adolescent years, for men the onset is later in life. In order to lose weight, men usually don't use severe diets to achieve their goals but rather, engage in excessive physical activity to shape their body and to change their weight.
Men are more likely to develop an eating disorder if they have jobs that require being thin such as model, actor, entertainer, or certain sports such as gymnastics, swimming, diving and running. Men are as susceptible as women to cultural demands to show a perfect body, although for them these demands take a different form. In most men, bulimia can develop as a result to their desire to be competitive. When men get motivated by the desire for performance and achievement, they can opt for dangerous behaviors such as stop eating for a period of time to meet the competition's criteria, or engage in excessive form of physical effort.
According to a study conducted by John Hopkins University School of Medicine, up to 42 percent of the men diagnosed with eating disorders are homosexuals.
It is hard to get an accurate picture of how many men are affected by bulimia. According to a survey conducted on 9000 adults by Harvard University Medical School, approximately 25 percent of the adult sample who were suffering from an eating disorder - were men.
It is important to understand and accept the fact the men are ALSO affected and suffer from eating disorders. Despite similarities and differences between genders, bulimia is a traumatic experience with dangerous health and psychological consequences and if left untreated, can become a life threatening illness. Despite the negative connotation associated with bulimia, the treatment resources available (psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and group support) are as effective in helping bulimic men as they are for the female population and the prospect of recovery realistic and available for all individuals unrelated to their gender.
Article by Alina Morrow
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