Understanding the differences
Girls with eating disorders are typically obsessed with being thin. While boys with anorexia are driven by a similar motive, the majority of them tend to be more focused on achieving a muscular physique.
Despite the stereotype that eating disorders only occur in women, about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male, and subclinical eating disordered behaviours (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among men as they are among women.
Treatment is not one-size-fits-all.
For any person, biological and cultural factors should be taken into consideration in order to provide an effective treatment environment.
A gender-sensitive approach with recognition of different needs and dynamics for males is critical in effective treatment. Men and boys in treatment can feel out of place when predominantly surrounded by women, and an all-male treatment environment is recommended—when possible.
At First Steps ED we have long recognised through the alarming numbers of young men who come to us for support whilst at school that body image and peer pressure often plays a big part during their adolescence and if left unchecked or supported with early intervention, those struggling can continue to suffer in silence and risk serious psychological and physical health consequences.
Each year we see as many men as we support woman with Bulimia with males hiding this secret from their partners and family more so than the woman who seek our support.
Over the past couple of years we have been working with partners to break down this stigma and proud to have been part of the team responsible for creating in 2020 the Eating Disorders in Boys and Men training tool for GPs accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners, endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing and endorsed and now adopted by the Royal College of Psychiatry as a training tool.
Eating disorders are challenging to care for, and in men they can be even more tricky to diagnose. A new animated 60-mins course voiced by male experts by experience provides insight, clinical top tips, evidence-informed advice and treatment guidance. The course was developed by The University of Nottingham and Kings College London with clinical and creative partners, men with lived experience and eating disorders charities.