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More Men Suffer From Eating Disorders

July 14, 2011

Of the approximately 1.6 million people in Britain affected by an eating disorder, up to 20 percent of those are male, according to British eating disorders charity Beat. British health service (NHS) figures show a 66 percent rise in hospital admissions for men in England affected by some form of eating disorder over the last 10 years, Reuters is reporting.

Exact figures are difficult to pin down due as many men are reluctant to seek treatment for an eating disorder and a failure to diagnose the illnesses in males.

Beat told Reuters in via email: “The 66 percent increase in hospitalization of men in England with eating disorders is the tip of the iceberg.”

“There are many others who find it difficult to acknowledge that they have the illness or to seek help,” The charity said.

“That, coupled with the fact that not all GPs (General Practitioners) recognize the symptoms in males shows that there are still many people unable to access the treatment they so desperately need.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners says it wants doctors to be more aware of the problem because it is usually seen as a female issue, BBC News reports. “If doctors see a young man who is thin they are more likely to think that he is depressed,” a spokesperson said.

Doctor Claire Gerada says that the rise in male eating disorders is because image has become more of an issue. “Men are much more aware of their bodies, they are much more into dieting and how they look,” she said. She is also concerned that these issues can develop for young men while they are away at college.

The increasing numbers challenge the commonly held assumption that illnesses like anorexia and bulimia only affect women. Cultural pressure to have an ideal body is among the many factors that can trigger eating disorders and UK charities are keen to stress that this body dissatisfaction is not confined to females.

“Exercise is a major factor with eating disorders in men who can become obsessed with exercising every day. Males are under similar pressures to women nowadays to achieve that “Ëœperfect shape’.”

Ben Porter, now 20, suffered with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 14. “I had the usual anxieties about body image,” he said. “I just felt very inadequate about the way that I looked and felt I wasn’t fitting in at school,” he told BBC News.

When he finally went to his doctor, Porter claims he felt they were only concerned with the physical health issues rather than the psychological aspect of his disease.

Ben, who is 5′ 10″, explains how things became serious when he began losing weight drastically, “I fell in to a cycle that continued until it became unbearable for everybody.

“I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself and was abusive to my body at the time. The point was to look good and pursue a perfect image but I was doing the opposite.”

Ben was put on an NHS waiting list but when his situation became desperate, he went for private treatment. He is now showing signs of improvement and has reached one of his targets, which is to eat fries for the first time in five years.

Ben says he would like schools to address the issue and for them to teach body confidence to boys as well as girls. “Male anorexia and male eating disorders are a severe problem and it needs to be addressed as not just being a female disorder but something that can affect anybody,” he said.

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