New research shows the number of men in England receiving outpatient treatment for an eating disorder has grown twice as fast as women in the last three years.
“It got to the point where i couldn’t even play sports or get out of bed to go to the gym”
A 19 year old recovered anorexic, who asked to remain anonymous, shared his experience of the illness. At around fourteen he began skipping meals and obsessively exercising, to the point he could no longer participate in the sports he loved. He explains the point at which he realised that he was ill.
A BBC Breakfast investigation has determined that the number of male patients has grown by 27% whereas there has only been a 13% increase for women. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, affect over one and a half million people in the UK with 11% being male.
Eating disorders are mental health problems that develop as a result of psychological, biological and environmental inadequacies, usually causing sufferers to try and retain a minimal body weight. They often show intense distress over their body weight or shape, have irregular eating patterns and exercise obsessively.
In the past there have been concerns that the stigma attached to having an eating disorder prevents men from coming forwards and admitting they have one, or even understanding what it is due to a lack of education.
Although these statistics show more men are getting help for eating disorders, they still remain a minority at 8% of the total number of patients. BEAT, the UK’s eating disorder charity, say that men may “struggle to access appropriate support and treatment, this is another reason it is so difficult to know how many men are actually affected by these serious mental illnesses.”
“We’re specifically trying to target a younger male population where we know the rise is occuring.”
James Parker is the Clinical Lead for Eating Disorders in Nottingham. He works at the NHS Mandala Centre and his role involves supervising staff and overseeing caseloads as well as prioritising the most high risk and difficult to treat cases.
James believes due to the visual world we live in there is more pressure on men to have a certain look, thanks to the like of modern technology, apps and Fitbits. “We’re specifically trying to target a younger male population where we know the rise is occurring. There is a whole industry that I think young men may be more susceptible to – things like protein shakes and nutrition; fitness training. There’s a lot more pressure these days than there was a few years ago.”
Social media is often blamed for mental health problems in young people, as there are unrealistic expectations placed on both men and women to look a particular way to fit in with society.
In terms of further educating young people on these issues to try and reduce cases in the future James’ advice is that “this concept of well-being is a mix of attending to our body with an appropriate diet, reasonable levels of exercise but very importantly I think a message to be kind and compassionate to ourselves.”
If you are affected by this topic, or need help, you can talk to the Beat Eating Disorders charity on 0808 801 0677 or use their Youthline on 0808 801 0711.