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Back to School: High School Teenage Boys Just as Likely to Purge as Girls?

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Although eating disorders have been considered a "girl" problem for many years, a recent survey shows that the number of teenage boys who struggle with similar problems is on the rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently conducted a nationwide survey that looked at the propensity of eating disorders in high school teens.

The CDC found that high school boys in Los Angeles were more likely to engage in eating disorder behavior than boys in other states. The boys in Los Angeles were twice as likely to induce vomiting or use laxatives to control their weight, and they were also more likely to have used diet pills, powders or liquids than other boys nationwide.

Challenging Outdated Beliefs

The findings of the CDC survey challenge old beliefs that boys were immune to a problem that seemed to only affect girls. The latest data, from 2011, showed that in Los Angeles boys were almost as likely to purge as girls. Boys were also shown to be as likely as girls to use diet pills without the supervision of a doctor.

Standards of beauty are constantly changing in our quickly evolving entertainment world, and some experts say that boys are being faced with pressures that were not there before. As bare men with ripped abs and perfectly toned bodies take over television, movies and advertising, boys are now being subjected to the same pressures that have long plagued young girls.

Sports and Steroids

Sports can also increase the pressure to be thin or fit. One example is the way wrestlers often aim to lose weight to fight with lighter opponents. Using laxatives or purging can become a gateway to an eating disorder that could last well beyond the sporting event. Furthermore, steroid use seems to be on the rise among Los Angeles teen boys as well. The survey found that roughly one out of 20 boys said he had used steroids.

Seeking Help

Clinical psychologist Jennifer Henretty says that when boys finally get help, cases "tend to be especially severe." She also points out that people don't look at eating disorder behavior as a problem in boys until it gets really out of hand. Moreover, experts say part of the problem for boys looking for treatment is that the traditional methods of detecting disorders were made with women in mind.

There are many cases in which young boys who are thin and obsessive over their bodies may not draw attention. However, there are cases when the family may in fact be concerned but find that doctors wave them off and judge the child to be properly fit.

Moreover, there are not enough treatment centers or facilities that can accommodate boys with eating disorders. California middle and high school health classes cover eating disorders, but as the Los Angeles Unified health education programs coordinator, Lori Vollandt, points out, programs need to change in order to meet the current needs of young men struggling with eating disorders.

Source: The Los Angeles Times