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    Why men are not immune to eating disorders

    Men’s Health Mythbuster is a new section on UrologyTimes.com that explores common statements and beliefs about men’s health and evaluates whether these statements are false. To leave feedback or suggest future myths, send an email to [email protected] or post a comment below.

     

    Dr. Wooldridge is chair of psychology and assistant professor at Golden Gate University, San Francisco.

    Are men immune to eating disorders? Absolutely not!

    Yet it’s not only the general public that thinks of eating disorders as a “female problem.” Unfortunately, this bias afflicts health care professionals, too. We are plagued by misinformation. For example, it is often stated that 10% of individuals with eating disorders are male. As it turns out, this often-repeated statistic is highly problematic. When it was published 25 years ago, it represented the number of men and boys in treatment—not in the general population (Andersen, A. Males and Eating Disorders. New York, Brunner/Mazel, 1990). Somehow, though, the statistic has persisted in our minds.

    In fact, the best available data indicate that males account for 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa and 36% with binge-eating disorder (Biol Psychiatry 2007; 61:348-58). Given that these numbers are significantly higher, why aren’t more men in treatment today?

    Also see: Does increased stress lead to heart attack?

    Oftentimes, men do not seek treatment because they are reluctant to ask for help; but beyond that, they are consistently stigmatized by the idea that they might have an adolescent girl’s problem. Men and boys are less educated about eating disorders, so they might not even consider that their behavior (eg, extreme weight loss, purging, binge eating, compulsive exercise, etc.) is on the eating disordered spectrum. They might actually suffer from a diagnosable eating disorder and think that it is normal behavior!

    In one study, male patients with anorexia nervosa emphasized the lack of gender-appropriate information and resources for men as an impediment to seeking treatment (BMJ Open 2014; 4:e004342). Additionally, assessment tests underscore males because they have been written for females (Eat Disord 2012; 20:416-26).

    Next: "There are certain specific populations that are particularly at high risk"

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