A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders reveals that more men struggle with binge eating than previously believed. Though the condition is equally damaging to men as it is to women (who are generally associated with eating disorders), men are far less likely to seek treatment.
Researchers say that much of men’s hesitation when it comes to obtaining help or confronting the disorder comes from shame. According to Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City”Guys are reluctant to seek help. Eating disorders of all types are socially less acceptable than other addictive behaviors. If you drink or smoke, it may be an addiction, but if it’s an eating disorder, you are crazy in society’s mind.”
The study was conducted at Wesleyan University under the direction of Ruth Striegel, a professor of psychology who describes binge eating disorder (BED) as succumbing to at least one episode a month of excessive overeating marked by “a sense of loss of control”. The research team used data from a sample of 21,743 men and 24,608 women and found that 1,630 of the men (about 7.5 percent) and 2,754 of the women (11 percent) were binge eaters
Regarding the neglect of men in previous eating disorder studies, Striegel says”Anytime we exclude a population, we are not learning about them. In a way, we are inadvertently giving the message that men don’t have the problem, and they do. Data suggests that the impairment is basically just as bad in men as it is in women. Yet we focus only on women.”
She estimates that some 5 to 10 percent of the male population struggles with binge eating. While post-binge purging is still a more common phenomena among women, there are still significant other risks to men’s health associated with the disorder, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, etc. Strigel mentions that because BED is so routinely associated with women, men tend to express “a double level of shame” when forced to confront the illness.