Many people think eating disorders affect only women, but new research shows it affects men and women equally, ABC News reported April 9.
Sadly, it often goes untreated because men are ashamed to admit they're suffering from anorexia or bulimia because of the perception that it's a "woman's disease."
As a result of this "cult of shame," men grappling with eating disorders often isolate themselves as their physical and mental health deteriorates, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open.
“Men with eating disorders are under-diagnosed, under-treated and under-researched,” wrote the study's co-authors, Ulla Raianen of the University of Oxford University, and Kate Hunt of the University of Glasgow.
"Men may experience particular problems in recognizing they may have an eating disorder as a result of the continuing cultural construction of eating disorders as uniquely or predominantly a female problem."
Eating disorders are not about looking good or having six-pack abs, and can wreak havoc on one's physical and emotional health. In many cases, it can lead to suicide.
“Eating disorders are not personal choices, diet fads or phases; they are severe and can be fatal,” Dr. Alix Timko told CBS News. “In fact, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest overall mortality rates and the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder.”
'You Are Not Alone'
Attorney and activist Brian Cuban, the brother of billionaire Mark Cuban, is an expert on eating disorders, having suffered from anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder for 27 years.
Cuban, the author of Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, told me deep-rooted body insecurities fueled a downward spiral into binge-eating, purging, and alcohol, drug and steroid addiction.
After a 2005 suicide attempt, Brian overcame his addictions through talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, and is now an eating-disorder advocate.
Through Shattered Image, Cuban wants to break down the wall of silence surrounding male eating disorders and raise awareness of the damaging impact these illnesses have on men. He wants to inspire the media to expand its focus of body dysmorphia, anorexia and bulimia to include men.
Above all, Cuban wants those suffering in silence to realize there are others like them, and they, too, can overcome their personal demons just like he did. Brian has been completely free of all his addictions since 2007. It was a long, tough road, but Cuban said if he can do it, anyone can.
"No matter how alone you feel, there is someone out there who loves you and wants to help you," he said. "You are not alone."