A survey of the composition of any eating disorder treatment program will reveal only about one male for every 10-20 women. Yet some researchers claim that a more accurate rate of men to women suffering from eating disorders is 1:6. No matter what the actual statistics are, though, most health professionals agree that male eating disorders are on the rise.
The reason for this may be that men are increasingly more aware of their bodies. While in the past, men tended not to worry about their bodies as long as they were strong enough to do needed work-today's men are bombarded with images of the perfectly muscled man-leaving many feeling that they fall short. This increased cultural pressure for a Brad Pitt body has led to the coining of the terms "bigorexia" (male dissatisfaction with lack of body muscle) and "manorexia," or male preoccupation with extreme thinness.
No matter what the term, males with eating disorders aren't seeking help for this problem at nearly the same rate as women are. One of the reasons may be that men aren't as aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder, and may attribute their own eating issues to other problems, such as not paying enough attention to diet or drinking too much. Friends and even health professionals may not consider an eating disorder in a man who has lost significant weight, either.
Even those men who recognize a problem may be reluctant to seek help. Eating disorders have long been considered primarily a woman's disease, and the lack of male specific eating disorder treatment programs only reinforces this idea. And because some research suggests that those males with eating disorders are predominantly homosexual, some men worry about being identified as such if they seek medical help.
Much more research needs to be done to determine the prevalence and patterns of eating disorder among men, and based upon this work to help health professionals recognize the problem and develop male specific treatment. Fortunately, early research shows that men benefit from treatment for eating disorders just as women do.