Male eating disorders becoming more common

Published: Nov. 4, 2013 at 2:44 AM EST
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(FOX19) - Eating disorders are often thought of as problems affecting women, but research indicates a growing number of males also suffer from the condition.

Eating disorders are closely linked to a person's self-image.

It's estimated that some 8-million people suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. and about 10-percent of them are men, but that number may actually be higher because many men are too ashamed to come to seek treatment.

Those who suffer from the condition can have serious health problems.

Dr. Walter Smitson, President and CEO of The Central Clinic says the problem in young men is becoming more prevalent. "We're seeing an increasing number and the increase is more in boys. We're seeing it at a very young age. We see it as early as 9 years of age and maybe even 8 years of age and the person becomes totally obsessed with their body image."

Dr. Matt Busam, an Orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine says young people involved in competitive sports can also be vulnerable. "I'll see kids who just can't get over injuries because they just don't have good building blocks. They're nutrition is really put at risk when they spend so much time fixated on I have to weigh 103 pounds on Friday night."

Professional athletes whose weight is crucial to their livelihood can fall victim to eating disorders as well.  Rodney Prescott has been a jockey for 19 years and he says binging and purging is not uncommon. It's a practice known as flipping. "Binging and purging, yes we call it flipping. A lot of riders flip, I've seen that a lot. I've known riders that when their careers are over they don't have to watch their weight anymore, but they can't help but flip after doing it for so long."

Dr. Katy Jadeed is a pediatrician who says those afflicted with anorexia are often plagued with a distorted self image.

"What those people see is not what their friends, their family, their physician see. You and I may see someone who is very under weight. When that person looks at their body they see something different," said Jadeed.

Smitson says children with self-esteem issues are especially susceptible. "That is more likely to be a youngster who feels an outcast and they're desperately trying to gain acceptance by their peer groups so they will go into this freefall."

Doctors say eating disorders are very difficult to treat because there are so many factors involved. Any effective treatment requires a multi-faceted approach.

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