All too often women are viewed as the sole sufferer of eating disorders; and while it’s true that the number of women who battle eating disorders tend to be higher than the number of men, this does not mean eating disorders are a problem only young females combat.
Emerging evidence has proven that eating disorders, be it anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or another form, do not discriminate and can affect any person at any time in their lives.
While it is typical to use those who are Caucasian as an example when talking about eating disorders, there’s really no scientific evidence behind doing so.
For instance, black teens are 50% more likely than their white counterparts to exhibit binging and purging behavior. According to that same source, Hispanic teens are also more likely to display bulimic behavior than non-Hispanic peers. Even though these statistics are incredibly high and noteworthy, many clinicians fail to ask these clients about disordered eating habits in their lives.
Unfortunately, this leads to an undiagnosed condition which can become quite life-threatening. For this reason, it’s important that treatment centers consider the needs of all individuals, and work alongside each client individually to craft a holistic treatment plan designed to meet their mental health goals.
Related: Myths and Misconceptions About Eating Disorders
Even though women are usually depicted as having eating disorders, men and boys have a risk of developing them as well. For example, males under the age of 18 are more likely to develop ARFID than females. Overall, it is estimated that around 40% of those with binge eating disorder are male, and nearly 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy behaviors like skipping meals and vomiting to control weight.
In many cases, males don’t even know they have an eating disorder, or experience shame in identifying it as such, directly impacting their ability to access treatment. Additionally, eating disorders can manifest differently in men than in women, as is the case with muscle dysmorphia. While many women buy into the cultural lie that a “perfect” body looks as underweight as a model’s, many men fall prey to the idea that perfection is equivalent to muscle size and definition.
The stereotype that only women experience eating disorders can also prevent men from receiving treatment. Like non-white ethnicities, doctors can overlook symptoms, even though it is estimated that over 10 million men have experienced a type of eating disorder during their lifetime. This equates to one-third of those with eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorder Association has found that individuals who are transgender experience eating disorders at a higher rate than those who are not. Additionally, studies have found that LGBTQ+ youth can experience disorders as young as age 12, in comparison to late teens or early 20s for cisgender people.
Gay men especially can be underrepresented. They make up 42% of males that experience an eating disorder. In one study, this part of the population was 12 times more likely to say they purged than their heterosexual counterparts.
One positive aspect that researchers found was that the connectivity that members of the LGBTQ+ community experience does help those with eating disorders.
Adults Over 50
While teenagers and young adults do make up the majority that develops an eating disorder, those over 50 can, and do, show eating disorder symptoms. However, it’s not necessarily the case that these individuals are just beginning to experience the disorder for the first time. Many older persons who are diagnosed with an eating disorder have actually been combatting the disorder for many, many years.
More research is needed in this field, according to many specialists, because the difficulty lies in the fact that these individuals, after having lived with an undiagnosed eating disorder for so long, have adopted the disorder as part of their personality. Treatment for them looks much different than treatment for a teen; just another reason why holistic, personalized treatment plans are so important.
Minority Mental Health Month
July is Minority Mental Health Month, and we at Seeds of Hope make a point to reflect on the truth that all people can be affected by eating disorders regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or age. Keeping this in mind can help in identifying the signs of different types of eating disorders in yourself, or in a loved one by remembering that eating disorder don’t discriminate.
No matter your background, experience or story, Seeds of Hope is here to help. If you or someone you know is looking for a consultation or is ready to enroll in eating disorder treatment, contact Seeds of Hope today at 610-644-6464.