Eating disorders are statistically known to be more common among women. It may come as a surprise when recent findings suggest there is an epidemic of eating disorders among males, specifically homosexual men.
According to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, there is a three times greater likelihood for gay men to have a clinical eating disorder than for heterosexuals. The study says 15 percent of homosexual or bisexual males in the U.S. have struggled with such eating habit disorders as bulimia, binge eating, and anorexia. Of men overall who have an eating disorder, 42 percent of them are homosexual or bisexual.
Linda Santangelo, a psychologist who runs an eating disorder program, tells the UT San Diego that the likelihood of homosexual men binge eating is seven times more than heterosexual men. Furthermore, in regards to purging, gay men have a 12 times more likelihood than heterosexual men. Santangelo said the reason why eating disorders are such an epidemic among homosexual men is because it is a coping method for discrimination, violence, or rejection in response to their sexuality. They may also be stressed about coming out.
Troy Roness, an advocate for national eating disorders and a writer and speaker for Huffington Post, tells Salon that eating disorders put an individual in control of what they eat and don’t eat, which seems like a positive to them, but in essence it is “controllable in an unhealthy way.” Roness said that the subject of eating disorders is still “taboo” among males. More of a concern, is how America is lacking in education and helping the public understand the illness in regards to men, all primarily because of “guilt and shame.” In other words, being a male with an eating disorder is a sign of weakness and not being masculine.
Benjamin O’Keefe, an LGBT rights activist and actor, tells Salon that a lowly one in 10 individuals will seek treatment for their illness, and thus, compared to other mental diseases, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate.
While wanting to be thin is the main reason for eating disorders among women, having muscular bodies and low body fat are usually the case for men. Moreover, males with the illness tend to binge eat as opposed to being bulimic or anorexic.
In general, 30 million Americans have had a clinical eating disorder at some point during their lives – 20 million women and 10 million men. Forty percent have suffered or known someone who has suffered an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
According to a 2012 Pink News article, located in the UK, 48 percent of homosexual men said they would take away at least a year of their lives in order to have a perfect body. Salon titles eating disorders among homosexual men as a “hidden epidemic.” Chase Bannister, a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders says the research on the illness among gay men and lesbians is “virtually nonexistent.” He calls this lack of research tragic, pointing out how this is a large subgroup, consisting of neighbors, friends or family members, that deserves more care.
This article first appeared on ‘Liberty Voice’ on 2 March 2014.