The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) explains that although eating disorders impact those in all genders, socioeconomic statuses, and racial groups the “stereotypical person with anorexia nervosa is a rich, white, adolescent girl” (National Eating Disorder Association[NEDA], 2016). This stereotype can discourage others who do not fit the stereotypical definition of someone with an eating disorder from seeking treatment. This is particularly important for men with eating disorders who experience the stigma of both seeking help for the eating disorder and for suffering from a stereotypically female disorder.
This is why it was not surprising when I heard of the case of a Penn State University football kicker who admitted himself for residential eating disorder treatment, and this is where he heard his eating disorder diagnosis for the first time in his life (Caron, 2017). In an interview this young man points out the glaring truth when he says that people would have noticed his behaviors for what they were much earlier if he were a female (Caron, 2017). His story highlights the fact that, like women, men experience concerns about body image, societal pressures to look a certain way, and can be impacted by very real and life threatening mental health concerns. In fact, body dissatisfaction has been identified as an overarching issue for men and boys, particularly in male athletes (Chatterton & Petrie, 2013). Male athletes are subjected to two very specific types of pressure regarding body image.
They are subjected to societal pressure to look and act in ways that define the stereotypical “male ideal” and they experience pressure specific to their sport to look and perform in the way that aligns with the ideals of that sport (Chatterton & Petrie, 2013). Both of these concerns were explicitly highlighted in the case of the Penn State football player (Caron, 2017). Eating disordered behavior among male’s and male athletes is a topic that has not been heavily researched, but thanks to individuals sharing their stories and starting the discussion society is becoming increasingly aware of eating disorders in men.
Treatment approaches are not one size fits all for any mental health concern, but considering specific concerns of—and the stigma faced by—men with eating disorders it is important to have an informed treatment approach for working with this population. If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder we are here to help. You can schedule an appointment today by clicking HERE and you can also find more information on eating disorders at www.myNEDA.org .
Caron, E. (2017, July 31). After former Penn State kicker Joey Julius hit bottom, asking for help was the thing that saved him. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/espnw/culture/feature/article/20182262/former-penn-state-kicker-joey-julius-opens-struggle-binge-eating-depression
Chatterton, J.M., & Petrie, T.A. (2013). Prevalence of disordered eating and pathological weight control behaviors among male collegiate athletes. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 21(4). 328-341. DOI: 10.1080/10640266.2013.799822
National Eating Disorder Association (2016). Research on males and eating disorders. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males