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Binge Eating: As Much A Problem for Men as Women


Anorexia and bulimia are often thought of as “women’s disorders” as only about 10 percent of those diagnosed are men.

This idea has rubbed off on the problem of binge eating, meaning that people mistakenly consider binge eating a mostly female disorder as well. Statistics tell a different story.

The number of men struggling with binge eating is nearly the same as that of women. One study, reported in The International Journal of Eating Disorders, states that out of 46,351 research subjects (ages 18 to 65), approximately 11 percent of the females and 7.5 percent of the males indicated some problem with binge eating.

Symptoms of Binge Eating

The American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for binge eating lists frequent overeating - a minimum of once every week for three months - accompanied by the lack of a sense of control, distressed feelings, and three or more of the following:

  • eating rapidly or more quickly than normal
  • eating until feeling extremely uncomfortable
  • eating large amounts of food though not feeling hungry
  • eating in isolation to avoid embarrassment about overindulging
  • feeling shame, guilt, self-loathing or depressed after eating

Five Reasons Men Avoid Treatment

Although binge eating is decidedly a problem for both sexes, women are more likely to seek treatment. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. As already mentioned, many people consider all eating disorders to be largely a problem for girls and women. This belief causes some men to feel shameful about asking for help.
  2. Guys are known to eat a lot. Overall, men are less put off or horrified by consuming great quantities of food than most women are.
  3. Many binge eaters are overweight or obese. Generally, overweight men are culturally more acceptable than overweight women.
  4. Most of the literature and resources available on eating disorders are written for women.
  5. Men are less likely to see a link between emotional upset and overeating. They may not consider the possibility of eating to soothe feelings, to fill an emptiness or to relieve loneliness.

The new psychiatric diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, is scheduled to take effect this spring. In it, binge eating is made an official medical diagnosis. This change will hopefully make men (and women) more comfortable about asking for treatment.

Don’t Put Off Seeking Help

The symptoms of binge eating are usually accompanied by severe emotional distress, problems with productivity, depressed mood, possibly a lack of meaningful relationships, and a wavering hope for the future. If this describes you, help is available.

You can start by talking to your personal physician, contacting a community mental health center, or seeking a private therapist. Most communities have support groups you can join as well. Online resources, including counseling, are another option. It is true, much of the material available is geared toward women, but this is changing and will continue to do so.

Source: Binge Eating Among Men Steps Out of the Shadows