Eating disorders are often wrongly considered to be a female illness, but studies are showing that binge eating is one that affects nearly equal numbers of men and women. All eating disorders are difficult to treat, but what is so unfortunate about binge eating is that so few men are willing to admit their problem and look for help. This leaves men not only struggling to conquer disordered eating, but at risk for a host of health problems associated with the problem of habitual over-eating.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which sufferers severely restrict their own calorie intake. Although sufferers often try to hide their illness, eventually thinness, extreme exercise or obsessions with portion and body size wind up giving them away. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by indulgent overeating followed by self-purging. Again, people with this disorder often try to hide the practice of eating and purging, but frequent trips to the restroom during meals, sores in the mouth and throat and other signs eventually give them away.
With binge eating, which affects approximately eight million Americans, a person repeatedly over-eats huge quantities of food (1,500 calories in a single sitting for example) but does not purge. These episodes of gorging are quickly succeeded by feelings of guilt, shame and self-loathing. Many times binge eaters do consume these large quantities in secret. Yet, unless they become obese, their problem can remain hidden for a long time.
People who engage in binge eating face numerous physical health risks. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and heart disease are just a few of the physical conditions which can result from habitually over-consuming calories. Gorging may result from depression. Around half of those who engage in binging experience current depression or have some sort of mood disordered past history. Even though those who binge eat enormous amounts of food, not all of them are overweight. This fact can make it difficult to detect those who suffer with the condition.
Despite the fact that binge eating poses similar dangers to men and women, the practice is perhaps more problematic for men who tend to view it as a woman’s disease and therefore avoid getting help for their problem. Since doctors rarely make a practice of screening overweight men for binge eating the problem can continue undetected and untreated until their weight causes secondary issues. Men who binge experience significant weight problems at a rate of 70 percent.
As with all addictions, there is a psychological root beneath the behavior. Feelings of self-disgust, depression, and guilt often accompany this condition. Nevertheless, today binge eating remains outside the realm of formal psychiatric diagnosis since it is not listed in the diagnostic manuals used to identify psychiatric conditions. That may change when the newest edition is released next year. Until then, men who binge are at risk physically and emotionally.