Wait!!! You’re a male with an eating disorder?

By Dr. Tony Wendorf, Guest Blogger

In a culture that values image so much, women may feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way.  Over the last few decades the movement toward valuing “being thin” has progressed at an alarming rate. Eating disorders have also followed suit and increased over the last 10-20 years.

Perhaps society is to blame, or it may just be that we have gotten better at understanding and recognizing what an eating disorder looks like. For years we have placed so much clinical attention on females with eating disorders that we completely ignored similar symptoms in males when, in fact, The Academy of Eating Disorders recently released statistics demonstrating a 10:1 female to male ratio. This gap is only continuing to get closer and closer the more we learn about males with eating disorders.

Typically, men have a later age of onset (21 years old) versus women (18 years old). Men typically do not seek treatment as quickly as females (nearly four years later). When men do seek treatment, their hospital stays are typically almost three full weeks shorter than females. Not surprisingly, we also see that males tend to die sooner after hospitalization than females.

Men diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa—Restricting Type are the most likely to die following treatment. It’s possible that this alarming notion is due to the fact that men are admitted and discharged based on a lower Body Mass Index (BMI), which contributes to quicker fatality. The older the male is for admission, the more likely they are to die sooner than someone who is admitted at a younger age.  And yet another contributing factor is poor social support, which naturally results in the likelihood of death.

Many of the clinical symptoms of an eating disorder are similar, if not identical between males and females.  However, there are a few significant differences. For one, many males with eating disorders have struggled with a history of being premorbidly overweight.  This is not the case with females. Additionally, males do not tend to attempt suicide nearly as frequently as females with eating disorders. Anecdotally speaking, many males with eating disorders are having or have actively dealt with struggles with their sexuality. This may also contribute to body image dissatisfaction and distortion. Lastly, a great number of men with eating disorders struggle with Binge Eating Disorder, which is not currently listed in the DSM-IV-TR, but clearly has a distinct clinical pattern that requires immediate attention—immediate attention that is often not received.

The message is clear. Eating disorders do not discriminate between males and females.  As a professional in the field, there is a greater push to treat men with eating disorders and far more training available to better address this population. If you believe that yourself or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, it is highly encouraged that you seek immediate evaluation. I highly recommend the following facilities:

Rogers Memorial Hospital: www.rogershospital.org
800-767-4411

Rosewood Ranch, Center for Eating Disorders: www.rosewoodranch.com
800-845-2211

My contact information:
Dr Tony Wendorf
Licensed Clinical Psychologist #2977-57
Specializing in Recovery for Eating Disorder Individuals
tonywendorf@gmail.com

 

 Author

Dr. Tony Wendorf is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders and is a professor in the Masters of Counseling program at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI for courses in Multicultural psychotherapy, Psychopathology, and Eating Disorders. Dr Wendorf is a psychologist at The REDI Clinic. Prior to joining the REDI Clinic, Dr. Wendorf completed his Doctoral Residency at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints in Racine. During this time he was part of the consultation-liaison team in the medical hospital, established an eating disorder therapy group, saw eating disorder patients for individual therapy and conducted psychological and neuropsychological evaluations.Dr. Wendorf gained specialty training in treating males with eating disorders during his time at Rogers Memorial Hospital as the primary therapist for the male program in the residential Eating Disorder Center. Additionally, he has specialized training in Maudsley Family Therapy (FBT).

Dr. Wendorf received his Bachelors Degree in Psychology from UW-Milwaukee, his Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology and his Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology from Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology. He is a member of multiple professional organizations including the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp), the American Psychological Association (APA), National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and the Wisconsin Psychological Association (WPA).