Eating Disorders of Men and Women

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At present, modern society is characterized with an obsession with appearance and body image.  People are always relentlessly exposed to media that promotes an unhealthy way of life.  Whether in movies, magazines or television shows, people are immersed in a culture that patronizes celebrities and other personalities whose looks and bodies are deemed as ideal.

Unfortunately, this perception is detrimental to the people, as they seek to achieve an unrealistic standard of beauty.  The result of this problem is the presence of eating disorders. Victims of eating disorders are mostly women, but statistics show that men also suffer from these conditions.  This research paper aims to discuss the eating orders that affect both men and women.

Eating disorders were initially perceived as a woman’s disease.  The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that around 70 percent of women are on a diet at a particular time (CMHA, 2008).  Studies also show that in the female adolescent population, one percent have anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. [ANRED], 2008b).  Moreover, it was also found that four percent of the female population in the college age have bulimia (ANRED, 2008b).

When a review of magazines of television programs was conducted, it was revealed that women were influenced by the media exposure to resort to thinning methods to boost their self-esteem (ANRED, 2008a).  This is because based on the things they have seen, these women equate being thin with success in both career and love.  Lastly, when women are questioned about one wish they wanted granted, the answer was almost always to lose weight (ANRED, 2008a).  It is therefore no surprise that the problem of eating disorders is associated with women.

However, it was recently proven that men are also victims of this medical condition.  According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, among the eight million Americans that suffer from eating disorders, one million are men (as cited in Caring Online, 2007).  In 2001, researchers of the American Journal of Psychiatry found that there is one male that suffers from anorexia for every four females that suffer from the same disease (as cited in ANRED, 2008a).

In the case of bulimia, there is also one male afflicted with the condition for every eight to 11 females afflicted with the same condition (as cited in ANRED, 2008a).  Lastly, in a February 2007 study conducted by the Harvard University Medical School, among the adults that suffer from eating disorders, 25 percent are men (as cited in ANRED, 2008a).  Hence, the perception that eating disorders are only a concern for women is false.

What are the eating disorders that affect both men and women?  There are three disorders that are known to affect both men and women: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating (CMHA, 2008; Caring Online, 2007).  Anorexia nervosa is marked by the drastic decrease in food intake, which results in sudden loss of weight (CMHA, 2008).

The extreme weight loss is usually caused by starving oneself (ANRED, 2008b; Caring Online, 2007).  This condition has several symptoms.  This includes immoderate exercising, exaggerated dieting, the sense of being overweight even if one is already underweight and the constant obsession with body image (CMHA, 2008).  For women, another symptom is the disappearance of menstruation (CMHA, 2008).

Bulimia nervosa is similar with anorexia nervosa because both are characterized by the obsession with body image (CMHA, 2008).  However, while bulimics strive to lose weight, their eating disorder causes their weight to change and become unstable (CMHA, 2008).

Bulimia is a condition generally distinguished with binge-eating and purging (CMHA, 2008; Caring Online, 2007).  Symptoms of bulimia include fasting, “self-induced vomiting” and the extreme usage of other weight loss methods, such as diet pills and laxatives (Caring Online, 2007; CMHA, 2008).

Aside from anorexia and bulimia, both men and women also suffer from binge-eating, which is also recognized as compulsive eating (CMHA, 2008).  For this condition, eating is a means to comfort oneself.  Its symptoms are overeating, which is usually done in private; it is then followed by episodes of extreme dieting (CMHA, 2008; Caring Online, 2007).

All the aforementioned eating disorders have essentially the same warning sings.  These signs include incapacity to concentrate, withdrawal from society and loss of self-esteem (CMHA, 2008).  However, the most prevalent warning sign is the individual’s fixation on weight.  A person suffering from an eating disorder is most likely to pay utmost attention to details of food, such as calories or amount of fat (CMHA, 2008).  Aside from this, the individual resorts to dieting and unhealthy amounts of exercise (CMHA, 2008).

However, it is important to point out that eating disorders have nothing to do with food, in spite of the preoccupation on food of those with eating disorder.  Eating disorders are simply manifestation of other problems.  The disorders arise from an individual’s difficulty to address other problems (CMHA, 2008).

In fact, psychological elements are responsible for the existence of eating disorders.  Men and women who have eating disorders have experienced depression, anxiety, loneliness and even addiction to alcohol (Caring Online, 2007; CMHA, 2008).  Low self-esteem and diminishing sense of self-worth also contribute to the problem (CMHA, 2008).

In addition, people begin to base their self-worth on their appearance and shape, leading them to immerse themselves in various unhealthy activities (CMHA, 2008).  Abuse also has a role in the existence of eating disorders (Caring Online, 2007; CMHA, 2008).  Men and women who have experienced sexual, emotional or physical abuse are more prone to have eating disorders.

Interpersonal issues also cause eating disorders (CMHA, 2008).  Troubles in familial or other relationships eventually lead to eating disorders.  For instance, eating disorders can occur when parents encourage an unhealthy way of life when they impose impractical expectations or overemphasize athleticism or fitness (Caring Online, 2007).  Influence of media is also to blame for this health problem (Caring Online, 2007; CMHA, 2008).  Relentless exposure of unrealistic images forces people to resort to measures that would endanger themselves, all for the sake of reaching a non-ideal goal.

There are differences between men and women in terms of eating disorders.  First, men acquire disorders later in life compared to women (ANRED, 2008a).  Second, eating disorders have a greater effect on men than women.  Take anorexia, for example.  According to psychologist Mae Sokol, when men reach their lowest weight, not only do they lose fat, but also muscle and tissue (as cited in Caring Online, 2007).

The most significant difference, however, is that males are more reluctant to seek treatment than their female counterparts.  One factor that comes into play is fact that most men who suffer from eating disorders, such as anorexia, are homosexuals (Caring Online, 2007).

For fear of being identified as homosexuals, most males keep to themselves and refuse to seek help. Another factor why men rarely seek treatment is the perception that eating disorders are a female disease (Caring Online, 2007). Men who have eating disorders fail to acknowledge their problem because they feel it is a disease they are not supposed to acquire.  Adding to the problem is the fact that eating disorder treatment programs currently available are fashioned for women, since eating disorders were usually associated with females (ANRED, 2008a).

Men and women are both affected by eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.  Eating disorders are a serious problem, and the number of victims of the conditions continues to rise.  Regardless of sex or sexual preference, it is important for those who suffer from eating disorders to seek treatment and professional help. Society must pay attention to these problems before it is too late.

References

Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (2008a). Males with eating disorders. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from http://www.anred.com/males.html

Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (2008b). Statistics: how many people have eating disorders? Retrieved April 3, 2008, from http://www.anred.com/stats.html

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2008). Eating disorders. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=3-98

Caring Online. (2007). Males and eating disorders.  Retrieved April 3, 2008, from www.caringonline.com/eatdis/topics/males.htm

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