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Karly Perkins
Malcolm Campbell
UWRT 1103
30 March 2015
Living With a Female Disease
Unfortunately, it is clear that modern society views men as superior to women. Everyone
grows up hearing things like Dont be such a girl! when showing emotion, or You
throw/fight/sound like a girl! when someone completes one of those actions in a weaker form.
Society holds women up to a high standard, to look and act and be a certain person. But society
also does the same for men. Men have to be strong and built, they have to be intelligent, but not
too intelligent so that they maintain their cool factor, they have to have confidence, they have
to be athletic, and they are all taught not to be like women. So when a male is diagnosed with an
eating disorder, commonly thought to be a female disease, what happens to their self-esteem?
How does their entire lifestyle change?
The way the world views men has drastically changed in recent decades. For almost all
males, the image we see in magazines, movies, and other types of media are almost unattainable
for your everyday average guy. It puts an entire new pressure on the modern day young male. It

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rough and rigid by starting with a statistic.

is now known that about 1 in 10 young male adults are diagnosed with some form of an eating

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disorder (Adams), and that roughly 42% of those males are gay (Rawlings). The lives of these

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young male adults are changed forever when diagnosed, and some never even get diagnosed
because theyre embarrassed for having a girls problem. Among many different factors, such
as media, home life, demographic, along with others, the time at which a boy matures is a factor

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that can explain how and why a boy develops an eating disorder. There is a possibility that the
later a boy matures, the more likely he is to develop an eating disorder.
Over the years, the education system has realized how many young people are affected
by eating disorders, whether its having one or knowing someone that has one. In teenage
students, one-half of girls and one-third of boys use some sort of unhealthy weight control
behavior in order to maintain a healthy, attractive, perfect body (ANAD). Education systems
nationwide are making sure to educate students everywhere on the different types and the signs
to look for if they think a friend or family member could have one.
The two most common types are: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. According to the
Mayo Clinic, anorexia nervosa is the eating disorder in which a person restricts their caloric

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instead of referencing it at the end.

intake by extreme amounts and over-exercise themselves due to a high fear of gaining weight. A
person who struggles with anorexia tends to associate their thinness with their self-worth;
meaning the skinnier they are the more perfect they are or the more theyll fit in. A few
symptoms include: extreme weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, weak hair, intolerance of cold, denial
of hunger, irritability, and skipping meals (Mayo Clinic). Anorexia nervosa is one of the more

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serious eating disorders because it takes over the body quickly. The American Psychological
Association says that people who suffer from anorexia have a mortality rate that is 18 times
higher than someone who does not have an eating disorder. Recent research states that out of the

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emphasize how dangerous anorexia is.

people who struggle with anorexia, about 10-15% are men. That number increases up to 20%
when looking at gay males (ANAD).
Bulimia nervosa is the eating disorder where a person eats their food, and then purges it
(no matter how little or how much they eat) to get rid of the calories (Mayo Clinic). Bulimia, like
all eating disorders, is a life-threatening disease. Bulimics who purge also use laxatives or

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diuretics, bulimics who do not regularly purge excessively exercise and/or fast and put
themselves on a strict diet. Some of the most common symptoms are: obvious fear of gaining
weight, eating until the point of discomfort, misusing laxatives, damaged teeth, gums, and lips

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(Mayo Clinic). The website for ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and
Associated Disorders) mentions that like anorexia, about 10-15% of the people who have bulimia

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instead of referencing it at the end.

are men, and the number goes up to about 14% in gay males.
A third eating disorder that is becoming more well-known is binge-eating. Also known as
Compulsive Overeating, binge-eating disorder is when a person frequently consumes large

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amounts of food. Most of this is done every meal, and a lot of the over-eating is done in secret
(Mayo Clinic). A person who binge-eats is extremely embarrassed about their behaviors, but
somehow cannot stop or resist their urges. Binge-eating is becoming more well-known because it
occurs in about 1 in every 35 adults in the US; 2% of the male population struggle with binge-

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population for more clarification.

eating, and its 40% more common than other disorders (ANAD). Its important that this eating
disorder is becoming more relevant because it affects a much larger amount of both men and
women. The sooner we understand the disorder the faster we can help these people and prevent
possible health issues. Using these statistics, its clear to see that eating disorders are everyones
problem, not just women. With an increase in eating disorders in both sexes, its important to
understand the causes and risk factors that can make a person develop these diseases.
While each of these disorders have their differences, they all have commonalities as well.
Most of the similarities in the disorders are psychological, not physical. Research provided on an
Eating Disorder Referral site shows that all eating disorders can lead a person to feel depressed,
isolated, and lonely. They all lead a person to have the tendencies of a perfectionist and peoplepleasers and feel a need to be in control (Eating Disorder Referral). Certain people are more at

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many people suffer from binge-eating.

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risk to develop an eating disorder; gymnasts, runners, body builders, wrestlers, dancers, and
swimmers all have a higher chance of becoming vulnerable to eating disorder habits. They are
often obsessed with working out, struggle with tapering, tend to train while injured, and take
supplements (True Sport). All of these eating disorders can be caused by similar things as well.
Negative or traumatic experiences such as rape, or death of a loved one can trigger an eating
disorder. Even a positive experience, like getting married or having a child can trigger an eating
disorder because of the pressure that comes with a new role in that persons life (American
Psychological Association). However, there are things other than experiences that can cause a
person to develop one of these disorders.

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Aside from media influence, peer pressure, home life, and other factors that could lead a
boy to develop an eating disorder, maturation plays a huge role in boys behavior. Psychological
research has shown that when a boy matures early, he is more likely to experience positive shortterm and long-term effects. For example, they have higher self-esteem because they experience
things such as more attention from girls, an advantage over other boys their age, and more
attention from adults (McGraw Hill). Jeffery J. Arnett, a respected psychologist that studies
adolescents, has found that boys who mature early are also more likely to be successful in their

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referencing it at the end.

future years because of the confidence they built when they were younger. While early
maturation is positive over all, these boys are also at risk for negative effects. Boys who mature
early are more likely to develop alcohol and drug abuse issues when they grow older. They also
experience more social/peer pressure than other boys, which could lead them to developing an
eating disorder.
On the other side, boys who mature later than usual experience extreme negative effects.
Roughly 30% of adolescent boys believe that they are overweight; when in reality, only about

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16% of these boys are actually overweight (CDC). They lack social respect and self-confidence,

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leading to lower self-esteem. A student named Alice Michael from the University of Michigan
did a study on pubertal maturation in both boys and girls. She found that late maturing boys
showed raised awareness of eating disturbances. Late maturing boys are also more likely to

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already mentioned.

develop a substance abuse issue in their later years. However, there are some positive personality
qualities for these boys. Boys who mature later tend to be more intellectual, they explore
different behaviors, and they have time to prepare for their pubertal changes. In the long run,
boys who mature later tend to be more responsible, cooperative, and under control (McGraw
Hill). Late maturing boys are more likely to develop eating disorders because of the attention
they do not receive from the people in their lives. There was a study done in Sydney, Australia in
which 350 young people were questioned about their eating behaviors and physical attraction. In
the study, Suzanne Abraham and Jennifer ODea found that 82% of the males said physical

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referencing them.

appearance was a very important part of everyday life. Binge-eating is one of the most common
eating disorders in late maturing boys, while anorexia is one of the most common in early
maturing boys. These eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, and so is the stigma that
comes with having them.
Because of the socialization and emphasis on womens body image, eating disorders have
grown to become recognized as a female disease. The truth is, its never been that way. Leigh
Cohn, a researcher who has provided information to the website of the Eating Disorder
Catalogue, describes how there have been cases and research on eating disorders that involved
both men and women as early as 1690. The stigma of having a disease that more females have
than males scares these suffering males away from treatment, and it hurts research. The numbers
that are provided could in all honesty be completely off because of the young males that are too

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afraid to admit they have a problem, or the ones who think that their abnormal eating habits and
obsessive thoughts are normal. Another stigma within this small population is that most of the
men who admit to having eating disorders are gay. This is also not true. While it does appear that
gay males are diagnosed more often, when looking at larger populations research shows that its
a heterosexual dominated group (Cohn). This pushes the men with different sexual orientations
even farther away from treatment because of other stigmas their disorder is related to.
Thankfully, there are websites and support groups to educate anyone interested in this topic, such
as NAMED (The National Association for Men with Eating Disorders), Project Heal, the
National Institute of Mental Health, the National Eating Disorders Association, Eating Disorder
Referrals, To Write Love on Her Arms, and many, many more. Its important that these exist
because of the growing number of men suffering from these disorders. Its important that these
things are out there so that they know that treatment is readily available and that is the support is
nothing less than positively overwhelming.

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talk about stigmas with eating disorders.

Research shows that only about 13% of adolescents who are diagnosed with eating
disorders get treatment every year. There are thankfully many different types of treatment for

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topic of treatment.

people with eating disorders. Treating males with eating disorders is not much different than
treating women with eating disorders, and men do just as well as women when they go through
the treatment process (American Psychological Association). The NAMED has shown that just
from 2007 to 2013, there has been a 53% to 69% increase in males that go to receive treatment.
Even with that number increasing, it is harder to get males into treatment because a lot of them
are embarrassed because they feel like theyre suffering from a womans disease, but when
men are in treatment they do just as well as women. Unlike a lot of mental illnesses, medication
is not often used to specifically treat the eating disorder. They can help reduce obsessive

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compulsive tendencies, and also reduce anxiety in individuals, but medication alone will not treat
an eating disorder (Mayo Clinic).
The main source of treatment is behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy targets

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the negative behaviors and thoughts that fill a persons life and replaces them with more positive,
healthy ones. Dialectical behavioral therapy helps with the stress and teaches a person to regulate
their emotions, which especially helps binge-eaters (Mayo Clinic). Family therapy is also a
possibility so that the environment the individual lives in is healthy. The American Psychological
Association says that family and marital therapy is important for a recovering patient because it
can prevent relapse and provide support. The most important kind of therapy is nutrition

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education and being able to work towards a healthy weight. This could require hospitalization for
some time so that the person can regain lost nutrients and get back to a better weight before
doing treatment programs. According to the Mayo Clinic, being nutritionally educated is
important when treating any eating disorder because the individual needs to be able to
understand that eating is healthy and can be done in healthy ways while still allowing the person
to feel how they would like.
Another, newer form of treatment, is the use of medical marijuana. This has been used to
treat many different aches and sicknesses, ranging from arthritis and migraines to cancer and
AIDS. Medical marijuana is specifically used to help treat individuals who struggle with
anorexia, but can also help with depression, which is a common symptom of all eating disorders
(Medical Marijuana). When looking at depression, medical marijuana is one of the most
helpful treatments. Not only does it increase serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps regulate a
persons mood) levels in the brain, but it also allows the brain to receive more oxygen, therefore
actually promoting brain cell growth and reproduction (Medical Marijuana, Depression).

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referencing it.

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Patients with an eating disorder, specifically those who suffer from anorexia nervosa, can receive
benefits from medical marijuana as well. The ingredient delta-9 THC in marijuana stimulates the
bodys metabolism, and naturally increases a persons appetite. This could help a person with
anorexia gain weight without the use of a feeding tube. It can also be used in later stages of the
rehabilitation process; it can be used to relieve anxious and obsessive thoughts about food while
a person eats (Medical Marijuana, Anorexia Nervosa). With the use of medical marijuana,
patients can maintain a stable body weight in a short amount of time. No matter what the case is,
there is always some type of treatment or program for an individual with an eating disorder. It
just takes time, support, and cooperation with all people involved to find the most effective
treatment.
Society is beginning to emphasize self-love rather than trying to obtain unreachable goals
to look like people who almost arent real. But there is a long way to go before society can
progress in that way. That being said, genders aside, eating disorders are serious mental illnesses

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the beginning to the end.

and should be treated as such. Noticing signs around the pubertal-influenced adolescence stage is
the most significant time to pay attention, especially in the late maturing boys. By staying
educated and knowing about each disorder and treatments, it is one day possible that all people
will know that mental illness does not discriminate, and that asking for help is okay. On that day,
men and women will be more equal, and eating disorders amongst many others will no longer be
labeled a female disease.

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Works Cited
Abraham, Suzanne, and Jennifer A. O'Dea. "Onset of Disordered Eating Attitudes and Behavior
in Early Adolescence: Interplay of Pubertal Status, Gender, Weight, and
Age." Adolescence 34.136 (1999): 671. Science in Context. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.
Arnett, Jeffrey. Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. 2013. 504. Pearson. Paper. 21 Mar.
2015.
Baghurst, Tim. "Body Image Issues and the Male Athlete." True Sport. Anti-Doping Agency, 1
Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
Brownell, Kelly, Kathy Hotelling, Michael Low, and Gina Rayfield. "Eating Disorders."
American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, 1 Oct. 2011.
Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
Chaboya-Hembree, Jan, Kyle Kushman, and Matt Rize. Medical Marijuana. Hemp Blimp
Delivery Service, Oaksterdam University. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
Cohn, Leigh. "The Facts About Males and Eating Disorders." Eating Disorders Resource
Catalogue. Salucore, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
"Males and Eating Disorders." ED Referral. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
Michael, Alice. Pubertal Maturation: Relations to Adolescent Mental Health in Two Ethnic
Groups. (1996): pag 6. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
Rawlings, Zach. "Eating Disorders in Men." Psych Central. Psych Central, 5 Aug. 2014. Web. 13
Apr. 2015.

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Steinberg, Laurence. The Fundamental Changes of Adolescence: Biological Transitions
Chapter Outline. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. 2002. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
The New Eating Disorder: Binge Eating Disorder (BED). ANAD. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

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