Eating disorder diagnoses are rising at a terrifying rate, particularly amongst men. Whilst it’s important to raise awareness of what sufferers have to go through, it’s also important not to buy into the idea that eating disorders are a) inevitable and b) a life sentence.
That’s why I’m writing a book ‘Hope with Eating Disorders’, which is a guide to all kinds of body insecurity and disordered eating and the various treatments available, presented in an engaging and easy to understand way. The fundamental message is this: Full and complete recovery from an eating disorder IS possible.
It’s important not to let your ED define you, particularly as a male sufferer, whose situation is unusual. There is life after eating disorders.
For men in particular, getting the help you need for an eating disorder can be daunting. It
takes a great deal of courage, in a society which presents disordered eating and body image worries as a ‘girl thing’ to admit there is a problem at all. When you do decide to take that all important step and approach your doctor, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll find the compassion and the resources that you need. Nick Watts of MGEDT recently revealed whilst giving a presentation that an acquaintance of his was told to ‘man up’ when he went to his GP and expressed some food related concerns. Sadly, he isn’t alone in that experience.
A contributor to my book was weighed and told he ‘wasn’t underweight’, after losing almost half his body weight in less than a year through near total starvation. With only an average of six minutes per patient, GP’s often don’t have time to ‘read between the lines’ and tend to instead assess according to BMI. As we know, BMI gives no indication of state of mind or even of eating habits; so many sufferers are slipping under the radar and continuing with their misery.
This isn’t to suggest that this is the experience of all men who have approached their doctors – The reaction you receive will depend on many factors, including the area you live in and where your doctor has undergone his or her medical training. It’s definitely worth using your GP as a first port of call and seeing what treatments are available on the NHS.
It’s crucial not to allow any negativity to deflect you from your path to recovery, however. There is a wealth of treatment options available and, if you’re unlucky enough to have an unsympathetic doctor, private and alternative therapies can be the answer.
Everyone who suffers from an eating disorder is unique, their illness will therefore manifest itself in a unique way and they need to discover the unique treatment which is right for them. It might be psychotherapy, it might be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or it might be Neuro Linguistic Programming. It might be a combination of treatments, for example, counselling and nutritional therapy.
Most of all, and particularly for male sufferers, it’s important to find a treatment environment in which you feel safe, secure, respected and taken seriously.