Eating Disorders: Men Get Them Too
Eating Disorders are traditionally associated with women and young girls, with around 90% of those who suffer with an eating disorder being female. However, anyone can suffer with an eating disorder – whether it be anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder – at any age. Of the predicted 1.25 million eating disorder sufferers in the UK, only 11% are thought to be male – who are a lot less likely to seek assistance for the condition.
According to recent figures released by the NHS there has been a 70% increase in the number of men admitted to hospital with an eating disorder, with rates for men between 2010 and 2017 increasing at the same rate as women. All of the three most common eating disorders – bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder – can also occur with males at any age or stage in their lives, although is more common in younger men. Like with women, men with eating disorders go to drastic lengths in order to lose or gain weight with the end goal of changing or altering their body shape or image.
Why do men wait so long to seek the right support?
For many men, mental health is not something they are comfortable to open up about. Unfortunately, in the UK society has long conditioned men to keep their mental health to themselves, to withhold from crying and to keep quiet about their emotions. In recent years however, a number of male celebrities and personalities have spoken out about their mental health as part of a movement to encourage more men to open up, in an effort to lower the suicide rate amongst the male population.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK and it is thought that their reluctance to seek professional help could be behind the statistics. When it comes to eating disorders, men may be even less likely to seek help than with other mental health problems because eating disorders are commonly associated with women over men and often carry a bigger stigma.
Men in the UK less likely than women to visit a doctor for a physical health problem, and for many men the idea of taking the morning off work to visit a doctor and open up about their emotions can feel impossible. Online therapy is a great way to begin therapy – particularly for those who haven’t done it before or who aren’t comfortable to let others know they’re suffering with their mental health.
Online therapy offers everything you would expect in a “bricks and mortar” clinic, and can be accessed instantly unlike through the NHS where mental health services have the longest wait times of any other health problem in the UK. Sessions can be easily fitted into your day, around your work and home schedule – without the need for travel time or transport costs – and can take place at a location that works for you.
What can you do to help yourself?
Looking after your mental health is never as easy as 1, 2, 3 – however, there are a number of things you can try to help you with your issues. When it comes to eating disorders, having rules around food is often a hindrance rather than a help, however these tips – alongside professional therapy – could help you get back to you sooner rather than later.
1. Pre-plan your meals
Pre-planning meals takes away the worry around meal times. When suffering with an eating disorder, thinking about food might be what you do 24/7, and also could be what you avoid thinking about at all costs. Pre-preparing your meals, particularly packed lunches for the office, take away the option to think about what you should/can’t/can/won’t eat for lunch and makes it easier to just grab something when hunger strikes. Whilst you might not manage to eat everything you prepare – and equally you might find yourself supplementing between snacks – having a prepared meal (whether you’re at home or in the office) takes away the sometimes-impossible decision of what to eat and could make you less likely to skip meals or binge eat from the vending machine.
2. Speak to someone
Sometimes speaking to a professional or a therapist is simply too much in the beginning, but rather than staying silent – at least speak to a loved one. Often the term “a problem shared is a problem haled” is entirely true and whilst your friends and family might not be able to help with your mental health problems, having someone else to share your thoughts with and look out for you can be imperative to your mental health, whilst you build up the courage to speak to a professional.
3. Stay positive
Like with most mental health problems, eating disorders leave us feeling down, often helpless and can really lower our self-esteem. Around 50% of people suffering with an eating disorder in the UK will make a full recovery, whilst a further third will see a measurable improvement with the condition after the right treatment plan is in place. Work hard to remain positive throughout your treatment and to try and break the cycle between being overly critical of yourself and causing negative emotions.
In 2018 the biggest killer of young men is not cancer, or car accidents or substance abuse – it’s suicide, with around three quarters of all suicides being men. Speaking up or talking about your emotions – despite what you might have been taught, is not a weakness or fault – could be the catalyst in the road to recovery with your mental health.
Unlike with the NHS, those who seek private assistance with their mental health will not experience a waiting list to speak with a professional and the sooner you start therapy, the more likely you are to respond to treatment. Online therapy is a great way to start looking after your mental health, both discreetly and conveniently – from the comfort of your home, your car or your office. Learn more about our interactive therapy platform, the services we offer and the issues we can help with on our website.