Whether it's the death of an anorexic model or allegations of drug use and extreme dieting, the fashion industry is no stranger to eating disorder controversy. When the issue heated up again on January 21st after the Yves Saint Laurent show during Paris Fashion Week, however, something was different: This time the "shockingly thin" model at the center of the storm was male.
The image of a grown man with toothpick legs and sunken cheeks was a stark illustration of the fact that anorexia (often dubbed "manorexia") and other eating disorders are on the rise among men. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in January 2013 found that eating disorders -- once considered the domain of young, white, privileged females -- are increasingly affecting males, with research indicating that 10 to 15 percent of people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are male.
Despite this demographic shift, the study found that treatment for male eating disorder sufferers can be difficult to come by because of the lasting belief that eating disorders are a "girl problem." This bias affects both potential patients -- who might fear the stigma attached to being a guy suffering from a "girl problem" -- and their doctors. Merryl Bear, director of Canada's National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC), told The Epoch Times that the disease "may not be the first thing that comes to mind, or even the second thing that comes to mind, for a doctor faced with a male who has an eating disorder."
Discrepancies in access to treatment aside, the factors that promote disordered eating in males are in many ways similar to those that affect women, with those "who struggle with their sense of self, are perfectionistic, sensitive, and have obsessive-compulsive tendencies" at the highest risk.
Still, though, there are differences. Rebecca Wagner, the eating disorder coordinator at the Menninger Clinic, wrote in the Atlantic that the psychiatric community "must continue to improve our understanding of factors that impact the development and maintenance of eating disorders and body dissatisfaction for males."