It is a long standing misconception that eating disorders only affect females - eating disorders can and do affect anyone. Over recent years there has been an increase in the number of diagnosed eating disorders in males - of all ages. But why are males developing eating disorders now?
The truth is males developing eating disorders is not a recent phenomena. In the late 1600's Dr Richard Morton studied two people with 'nervous consumption', one was female and one male.
Current day media highlight the personal experiences of males living with eating disorders. Worried parents speak of their fears and anxieties for their young sons.
However, regardless of the revelations of a few brave males, the majority of males remain less inclined to raise matters concerning personal or emotional issues. It is this silence which can have terrible consequences for those males who either begin to develop, or are suffering in silence with, an eating disorder.
Factors affecting boys
Boys are surrounded by many factors that contribte to their development of low self-esteem and eating disorders.
Boys, sport and eating disorders
Boys generally show an interest in sport and physical activity, longing to be the fittest, fastest, etc. However, it is this interest which could lead to the onset of an eating disorder
There is an impulse to train harder for the membership or position in a sports team. IN order to do this boys may take on extra training sessions; they may begin to exercise constantly without consuming the extra energy needed to compensate for the extra output.
Males and research
There is little research regarding males, even less so regarding boys, and eating disorders. Therefore it is fair to say that many health professionals involved in treating boys with an eating disorder may not be fully conversant with the issues. It could well be the case that treatment will be based on a tripartite learning system - parent, son and professional.
Tips for parents
Be mindful of the visual indicators of a developing eating disorder.
be mindful of any behavioural changes, e.g. extra physical training sessions.
Listen to your son's concerns and any comments he makes about his weight seriously.
Broaden your son's understanding of masculinity - explain that personal qualities such as caring and understanding belong in the male psyche.
Think about the influences:
Action Figures - bulky muscular abs
Athletes - muscular and lean bodied
Body Builders -bulky and muscular
Mannequins* - muscular
Musicians** - extremely skinny
Swimmers - muscular and fast
Wrestlers - large bulky muscles
* some mannequins support 24" waist lines
** some musicians present themselves as almost skeletal