Binge Eating Disorders in Males
When we hear the term “eating disorder” we typically don’t associate the condition with males. What we tend to think of are teen or young adult females, models, actresses, and the like, but we almost never associate these same problems with the male demographic. However, this is a societal perception, and not one that is based on fact. Among those affected with binge-eating disorder, an estimated 35-percent are men, which means that societal perceptions are not only inaccurate, but could be grossly misrepresenting over a third of all binge eating disorder cases which could lead to large populations of underserved eating disorder cases that are in desperate need of help.
What is Binge Eating Disorder (BED)?
Binge eating disorder affects an estimated 3 percent of all adults in the United States. As stated above, 35 percent of those cases affect the male population. Binge eating disorder involves eating an abnormal amount of food in one sitting, and typically involves a feeling of powerlessness while doing it. While binge eating occurs in another eating disorder— bulimia nervosa— the two aren’t always related, as bulimia nervosa usually involves a purge of the food afterwards through self-induced vomiting, laxatives, strenuous exercise, or the use of diuretics both natural and synthesized. Binge eating disorder doesn’t typically involve the purge of the food afterwards.
What are the Causes of Binge Eating Disorder?
The official stance from the United States Department of Health and Human Services is that the cause of BED is unknown. On a genetic level, studies of people with other eating disorders, such as anorexia and/or bulimia have shown a link to a specific chromosome that could be responsible for the disorder. In 2006, a study led by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, estimated that 56 percent of the responsibility for eating for developing anorexia nervosa – another eating disorder – is determined through genetics. While we’re still unsure of the exact cause, a genetic link between those with BED is at least plausible.
Beyond the genetic connection, binge eating disorder and many other eating disorders are also tied back to underlying environmental and psychological factors. Pre-existing depression, anxiety, or other mental conditions can manifest themselves into binge eating behavior while environmental factors can play a large role here as well.
How is it Dangerous?
Binge eating disorder is an exhaustive behavior that is responsible for a diminished state of mental well-being that proves disruptive and difficult to gain control of without help. As far as physical complications, the heavy caloric load leads to men gaining excess weight, which brings with it a whole host of physical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and others. If binge eating is coupled with purging, physical complications include damage to the esophagus, electrolyte imbalances, and severe dehydration
While the chronic conditions caused by unhealthy eating are substantial, the toll it takes on outward appearance and mobility can often prove to be just as difficult to manage. Substantial changes in nutritional intake for an individual’s body can lead to limited mobility and strain on the body’s internal systems. Mental health is often an underlying factor. Although Binge eating disorder may be a behavior caused by stress, anxiety, or depression, binge eating can add to this strain by perpetuating negative thoughts about body-image and self.
Does Eating Disorder Affect Men Differently?
While the negative consequences of eating disorders are numerous, men and women are sometimes affected differently. For one, the disorder tends to start from a desire to be lean or muscular as opposed to just being skinny, as is the motivation for most women. In addition, men are also less likely to seek treatment as they tend to exercise excessively which could put additional stress on their heart and joints if there is a nutritional imbalance in the body. The actual food that is consumed will have varying effects on the male body as well. Binging on foods like carbohydrates which break down to sugars within the body can lead to elevated glucose and insulin levels which often have detrimental or dangerous effects on the kidneys and liver. Conversely, when these instances of binging are paired with purging, the body receives no nutritional value at all which adversely effects the individual’s well-being.
At Prescott House, our mission is to provide a comfortable environment for individuals to overcome their challenges with binge eating or other eating disorders. Our program makes it easy for men to open up about the greatest challenges they face in a safe and structured environment that is free from judgment or negativity. Our program exists for the sole purpose of helping each person that walks through our doors.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, contact us to find out how we can help.