GP alert over rise in male anorexia



21:01 GMT, 14 April 2012

Risk factors for anorexia can be stress, bullying and depression

Risk factors for anorexia can be stress, bullying and depression

The Royal College of GPs has urged its members to be vigilant, as figures show the number of men suffering with anorexia and bulimia is on the rise.

About 1.6 million Britons suffer from an eating disorder, and doctors believe one in five could be men.

Normally thought of as a disease of teenage girls, anorexia among men can be a diagnosis easily missed by doctors as they assume depression to be a more likely cause of weight loss.

Most men don’t long to be thin like many women, so why would they develop eating disorders

The problem of obsession with body weight and calorie-control applies to both sexes, but there are differences between the way men and women are affected.

While female anorexics create calorie deficit by restricting food, male anorexics will do by this by over-exercising. The disease can be seen by others as an obsession with the gym – a socially acceptable positive male trait – rather than what it really is, which is an underlying mental health problem.

Why are male eating disorders on the rise

The gym culture, men’s fitness magazines and the preponderance of underwear adverts full of perfect male torsos have roles to play. Similar to any mental health problem, triggers are a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It may also be a reflection of the fact that more men feel able now to ask for help.

What are the risk factors that predispose a man to developing an eating disorder

As with women, risk factors can be stress, bullying and depression, although in both sexes it is often unclear what causes them to use eating and food as a source of control or comfort. It is also more common in men in certain industries such as actors and models, as the work is so focused on aesthetics.

Can you explain what ‘bigorexia’ is

Bigorexia, or muscle dysmorphia, is reverse anorexia. Whereas anorexics think they look too fat, bigorexics always think they look too skinny and need to build up their muscles although they are already well built from muscle training. The obsession to get larger muscles causes excessive training even when injured, as well as dietary changes such as eating vast quantities of protein and protein supplements. It is also associated with steroid abuse. Bigorexia is an exercise disorder with close links to eating disorders, where body shape and appearance is an obsession and a source of compulsions.