Dear Chase: What Resources are Available for Guys with Eating Disorders?
Chase Bannister is the founder, senior vice president and chief strategy & clinical integrity officer for Veritas Collaborative, a specialty hospital system for the treatment of eating disorders in a gender-diverse and inclusive environment. He is credentialed as a certified eating disorder specialist by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals and is a licensed clinical social worker. Chase combines clinical and executive expertise to nurture a spirit of meaningful collaboration and carries a zeal for advancing public awareness on eating disorders.
I'm a guy with an eating disorder, but most of the sites and resources I've seen are for girls and women. What can I do to change that?
First, thank you for bringing this issue to the light. By simply asking this question you are raising awareness that more treatment options, resources and communities of support are needed for males who suffer from eating disorders. The field of eating disorders will benefit from people like you speaking out to initiate change.
It can be mighty frustrating to be a male with an eating disorder. On top of battling a life-threatening illness, you’re faced with limitations in treatment options, stereotypes from the general public and a lack of understanding that males suffer from eating disorders, too. For far too long, eating disorders were viewed as rich, white, girl diseases. This was in part due to the fact the symptoms required to be diagnosed with an eating disorder included female-specific criteria. Because of this, males were often overlooked and left to suffer in silence.
Fortunately, the field of eating disorders is evolving! We now know that eating disorders affect everyone. Eating disorders affect persons of all ages, races, religions, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, body shapes and sizes. Providers are able to accurately diagnose males with eating disorders because the symptoms required for diagnosis no longer include female-specific language.
More facilities and providers are offering services to males than ever before. Organizations like NAMED (The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders) and MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too) are working to raise awareness of eating disorders in males and to support those suffering. Other national organizations such as NEDA and AED are advocating for male-inclusive research and treatment and educating the general public to recognize these disorders in males.
You can continue to help the field move forward. Here are my suggestions:
1. Talk about your experiences. By sharing your story, you will help dispel the myth that eating disorders are ‘girl diseases.’ You may also make it easier for other males to share their own stories; they’ll know they are not alone.
2. Advocate for change. Going to a NEDA Walk in your area and participating in other eating disorder awareness events can be a powerful contribution to the community. A male presence at these events will raise awareness that many males struggle with eating disorders.
3. Change the conversation to eliminate stereotypes. Challenge and correct language with your friends, family, communities and on social media that promotes the stereotype that eating disorders are a female disease.
4. Ask for help. Ask for help for yourself and encourage other males to do the same. As more males seek treatment, the treatment community will respond to the call by providing additional resources.
Your voice deserves to be heard. The world needs to know that all persons struggling with eating disorders matter and deserve access to best-practice care.