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Dr. Phil Asking for People with Eating Disorders - Will he Consider Men?

Ernie Shannon's picture
Dr. Phil on discussing Eating Disorders

Eating disorders is the subject of an upcoming segment of Dr. Phil and the popular psychologist is seeking guests for the program. Undoubtedly, when Dr. Phil is on, most if not all the potential invitees will be female which would continue the long-held opinion that the malady is primarily a problem for women.

To be sure, women suffer from eating disorders at a much greater percentage than men. Studies estimate that only about 10 percent of all those who suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are men. Yet, it could be argued that they don’t even receive 10 percent of the attention - a situation that puts many of those males at risk.

“A growing body of evidence indicates that men are as concerned about body image as women and that it’s not unusual for a male to have an eating disorder,” said Dr. Theodore Weltzin, medical director at the Eating Disorder Services at Rogers Memorial Hospital near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “If you include binge eating disorder, as many as one in four of all eating disorder patients are males.”

One of the reasons male eating disorders can be overlooked is that men tend to approach the problem differently from women. Dr. Brad Kennington, executive director of Austin Sendero, an eating disorder treatment center for men and women in Granger, Texas, says few recognized that men suffer from the same disorders.

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“These disorders are easily masked in men. While females often use extreme dieting as a gateway into an eating disorder, which can draw suspicion from family and friends, males are more likely to fixate on exercise, which may appear deceptively healthy,” Kennington noted. A guy who works out two or three hours a day may be regarded as disciplined or into fitness and may not raise the same red flags as woman who refuses to eat or looks painfully thin. In fact, a slender, muscular man is likely to get positive feedback and praise for his physique, which reassures him that his self-destructive behaviors are paying off.”

Eating Disorder expansion on Dr. Phil

When Dr. Phil is on and if he decides to expand his eating disorders program to include the little talked about impact on men, good luck finding one. Troy Roness, recovering from years of suffering from the disorder, wrote during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in February that years of telling himself that he was “good enough” to ask for help or reach out to those around him, I finally found the courage to speak out.

“Masculinity is not achieved by holding on to all of our pain and struggles,” Roness said. Matt Wetsel, however, found sharing his pain a devastating experience. After more than a month of trying to work up the courage to try group therapy for anorexia that consumed him for two years he finally steeled himself enough to attend. A woman stopped him at the door, though and asked him if he needed anything. Unable to explain himself, he handed her a flier promoting the group that she took and disappeared. Returning a few minutes later, she told Wetsel he could not take part, the meeting was for women only. He shared his experience on Capital Hill last fall during hearings on the subject.

Thankfully, such reactions are becoming the exception rather than the norm. The National Institute of Health is devoting increasing research and resources into the study of male eating disorders and therapists are recognizing the problem more quickly offering treatment at earlier stages of the disorder.

“The treatment of males involves nutritional interventions aimed at normalizing eating and, in most cases, normalizing weight,” Dr. Weltzin said. “Treatment may also include cognitive-behavioral therapy that aims to identify and challenge errors in thinking, reduce preoccupation and overvaluation of food and weight, and to normalize behaviors related to eating disorders. An important part of treatment involves addressing co-occurring psychiatric concerns.”