Eating disorders amongst males are actually relatively common but despite this it is still a largely unrecognised problem. In fact, there are many people who simply don’t know that it exists. Trust me I know – when I was 17 I developed anorexia but it went largely unnoticed at my all boy’s school and quite a few of my friends were totally oblivious as well.
Basically, if you’re a man with anorexia it feels pretty lonely and it can seem as though you’re the only one. There are constantly features in magazines about the latest anorexic celebrity and what a bad influence they are on girls but there’s never any mention of men, which leads to a lack of understanding of the problem. The first stage of recovery is accepting you have a problem and this is difficult if no-one else is prepared to acknowledge it.
Guys get anorexia for loads of different reasons but it is generally a combination of all the pressures in life: Girls, school, exams, work, parents, etc. it is also common for those with the disease to have been bullied or ridiculed about their appearance or weight or to be involved in something like dancing or athletics where weight is important. Sufferers feel that in controlling how much they eat and exercise they are taking control of one part of their lives when everything else seems to be spiralling out of control.
There is also an element of social pressure to live up to a pre-conceived image of what a man should be involved. Loads of guys are desperate to sculpt a torso like that of the movies stars and cover models and there is a whole industry dedicated to persuading us that we all need to work out more and eat less. Unfortunately this can go too far and overexercising is really common amongst men. Eventually the disease starts to take hold and soon it becomes the centre of a sufferer’s life so that the idea of recovery actually seems terrifying. The effects of starvation are devastating – the body begins to eat into its own muscle and organs for food, testosterone production ceases, the heart slowly gets weaker and weaker and if it gets really serious then people die from malnutrition or sudden cardiac failure.
Recovery is possible however, but it takes a long time, a lot of hard work on the part of the sufferer and often help from professionals and family. There are many successful cases where people have gone back to live relatively normal lives after being really ill and the more that anorexia is recognised as a unisex issue the easier it becomes for others to seek help and begin their recovery.
You can find information on anorexia and eating disorders at Beat.