Male models to develop dangerous eating disorders
The pressure to look like a male model is driving more men to develop dangerous eating disorders, experts warned today.
GPs have been warned to be on the lookout for the potentially fatal conditions, which include anorexia and bulimia, after a rise in the number of those affected.
Men may be reluctant to admit they have a problem as the issue has until now been seen as something affecting mainly teenage girls.
Medical experts blame the surge on an obsession with looking good by having bulging biceps and a six-pack stomach.
NHS figures have shown a 66 per cent increase in hospital admissions in England for male eating disorders over the last decade.
A spokesman for the charity beat said the rise could be attributed to the struggle to attain a 'perfect' body shape.
She said: 'Sufferers can become obsessed with their weight or they can obsess over exercise and with how many calories they are eating.
'Exercise is a major factor with eating disorders in men in particular. They become obsessed with exercising every single day, if not more, and it can take over their life without them realising there may be a more deep-seated reason behind it.
'That is when it becomes an eating disorder.
'The pressure these days on guys to have the perfect figure is very similar to that which has and continues to affect women.
'It's all about losing body fat and getting a six pack, and it comes from the way the male shape is portrayed.
'That perfect figure can be a healthy body image for a man to aspire to; it is when it gets taken to an extreme that we see problems.'
Bulimia affects three times as many people as anorexia, but it can be more difficult to spot as the sufferer may not lose weight in the same way.
Diagnosing the condition is made difficult by men's reluctance to talk about their health, she said.
'We need GPs to be much more aware of the fact that males also these days are experiencing problems with eating disorders. They are not as good at recognising the symptoms in men as they should be.
'It can be because men are much more reluctant to talk about these issues or to admit there is a problem.
'There is a stigma about it - it is seen as a teenage girls' disease. But eating disorders are serious psychological conditions which can kill.'
The charity estimates that 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder. It is thought that one in five sufferers is male.
A GP seeing a man who is thin is more likely to think that he is depressed, a spokesman for the Royal College of General Practitioners said.
The Department of Health does not keep records which show how many sufferers there are in the England. It only keeps records of hospital admissions, so it can be hard to judge the scale of the problem.
Ben Porter, 20, from Kent, has suffered with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 14.
He became seriously ill when his weight dropped to seven stone.
He told the BBC: 'I didn't realise what I was doing to myself and was abusive to my body at the time. The point was to look good and pursue a perfect image but I was doing the opposite.
'I fell into a cycle that continued until it became unbearable for everybody.
'I just felt very inadequate about the way that I looked and felt I wasn't fitting in at school.'