A Silent Epidemic

Males and Eating Disorders

On the National Eating Disorders Association website, I came across this interesting infographic about males with eating disorders. The graphic sites muscularity in the media, lower willingness to seek treatment, and sexuality as all notable factors in the issue. Muscularity in the media is comparable to thinness in the media for women. It’s just that men are more likely to strive for a fatless body for muscle definition rather than definition of their ribs or collarbone. I believe that the idealized muscular body image in the male gender role is a healthier figure to pursue than many of the female “ideal” models because it at least promotes a healthy lifestyle of excersize rather than self starvation. I think this is also probably the reason for the prevalence of eating disorders has a  7 to 1 ratio from females to males.

However, I don’t think it would be wrong to hypothesize that this figure could be the outcome of under-reporting on the male side. This is because the perceived “femininity” of these disorders creates a whole new set of issues. The male gender role projects a negative attitude towards seeking psychological help because it is supposedly “not manly”. Think about it, a teenaged girl in a treatment center for eating disorders probably wouldn’t necessarily feel very out-of-place but it would probably take a lot of courage for a middle aged man to walk into the same building. Numbers show that this negative pressure is placed mainly on heterosexual males as 42% of men who report having an eating disorder identify as gay (although they only account for 5% of the total population). We have concocted this twisted stereotype that only women can develop eating disorders based on sexist undertones that dictate some of our social norms. As much as we tend to think otherwise, disorders don’t discriminate– against race, age, or gender.

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