I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, males are every bit as susceptible to developing eating an eating disorder as a female. The research to date has mostly consisted of looking at younger males, and that’s why I’m pleased to see the first ever study on middle aged males to date.
Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders October 2016 issue, “Eating Disorders Symptoms in Middle-Age and Older Men” evaluated 470 males between the ages of 40 and 75 for basic eating disorder symptoms such as having a BMI under 18.5, binge eating and purging, binge eating, and purging without binge eating. They also looked at compulsive exercise.
What they found is that nearly 7% of the men described eating disorder behavior at a diagnosable level. The most common form was compensatory behaviors in the form of exercise, though all forms of eating disorders were found. Also of note, when those same individuals who answered positively to doing eating disorder behaviors were given a standard eating disorder questionnaire, the EDE-Q, less than 9% of those individuals scored for having an eating disorder. The authors of the study note that the EDE-Q was designed to identify women, not men.
So what does this tell us?
- Males absolutely develop eating disorder behaviors and in significant numbers.
- Males are susceptible to eating disorder behaviors throughout the adult life-span.
- Males are not being adequately identified and treated due to limited understanding of the male experience and description of eating disorder behaviors.
- Available testing tools are limited in their ability to identify those who are struggling or at risk.
The work ahead is to increase awareness of this disorder, how it can physically and emotionally interfere and destroy the lives of men around the world of all ages, and to normalize the need to get help. There is a growing tribe of males doing just that, myself included. I hope you too will join your tribe.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS - Founder and CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.