Conventional wisdom tells us 1 in 10 people with eating disorders are male, but data suggests 25% of diagnosable cases occur in males, and that males have higher rates of disordered eating (Hudson et al., 2007). Unfortunately, the under reporting is likely a result of stigma, lack of sensitivity and detection, and gendered perceptions of eating and dieting. The lower occurrence of eating disorders in males may, however, also be attributed to gendered differences in the risk and maintaining factors for eating disorders.
Difference in biology, brain organization and temperament may insulate men against risk. Lower levels of mood disorder vulnerability also seem to put males at a lower risk as they have a greater tendency toward externalizing disorders than women. Generally speaking, men present with less harm avoidance, less drive for thinness and less body dissatisfaction; with what we know about eating disorders, these discrepancies should also account for lower prevalence in the male population. There remains a profound difference in the way men and women are taught to think and feel about their bodies, their weight and their shape. The differences in social, cultural, psychological and biological factors makes the detection, diagnosis and treatment of men with eating disorders particularly complicated.
Treatment for Males
At Monte Nido’s treatment programs, in addition to maintaining awareness of gender specific assessment of males with eating disorders, we are aware of the language we use in the treatment of males. We work with sensitivity to issues associated with gender while assessing motivation to change and ambivalence. Based on our experience working with men, it is essential to address gender-based beliefs and distortions when assessing and designing a treatment plan. This includes the use of assessments that have been designed for men and careful clinical supervision to monitor the treatment and experience of our male clients, as they participate in what the day treatment program provides to all clients:
- Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programming available to graduates of a residential program or those in outpatient therapy that need a higher level of support for their eating disorder
- Residential treatment programming in Oregon, New York and Maryland
- Medical and psychiatric assessment and monitoring with a high number of individual therapy, nutrition and psychiatric sessions
- Evidence-based and state-of-the-art protocols including challenges and assignments that address both eating disorder and co-occurring factors
- A level system that encourages accountability, self-awareness and capacity for tolerating distress
- Group therapy that establishes and solidifies other components of treatment
- Family programming including individual family sessions, family education and multi-family groups
By using a male-specific treatment framework, we are best able to serve this population and respect their unique gender specific eating disorder challenges.