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Throwing it all away

March 22nd, 2007

Picture someone eating nothing but carrots or cabbage and working out for six hours a day. No, this isn’t the latest crash diet of Lindsay Lohan or Hilary Duff.

This was the lifestyle of Thomas Holbrook, a Wisconsin psychiatrist, who became obsessed with not becoming fat when he injured his knee, according to www.gurze.com.

“I was waking up at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning and walking for hours on end,” said Holbrook in a USA Today article. “I was the champion of denial, and probably sicker than any of my patients.”

Holbrook’s case is one among the growing number of anorexic males in the U.S.

Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous psychological and physical disorder characterized by the relentless pursuit of thinness, according to casapalmera.com.

Although anorexia is usually associated with teenage girls, recent data shows a large increase in the number of diagnosed males.

The Harvard University Medical School conducted a research survey in February 2007 that indicated 25 percent of adults with eating disorders are men, according to anred.com, a site funded by Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.

Research indicates that there is little difference between male and female symptoms. According to caringonline.com, both sexes suffer similar rates of anxiety, depression, phobias, panic disorder and dependence on alcohol.

However, the increase in male numbers appears to be more than coincidental. According to Maleanorexia.net points to perfectionism as the leading cause of anorexia for men.

According to the site, perfectionism leads to the desire to be right, accepted, and in control – all of which can be the primary causes of male anorexia. Male anorexics actually desire to reach perfection and have the erroneous belief that being thin, or perfect, will lead to happiness.

Regardless of the cause or a person’s gender, anorexia has many detrimental effects on the body.

According to pubmed.gov, anorexia puts a particular strain on the structure and function of the heart and cardiovascular system.

More specifically, the site says people with anorexia typically have a disturbed electrolyte balance, low levels of phosphate, muscle weakness and immune dysfunction. Osteoporosis can also develop as a result of anorexia in 38-50 percent of cases, as poor nutrition leads to the retarded growth of essential bone structure and low bone mineral density.

Besides this, caringonline.com describes the specific dangers of male anorexia. According to the site, it’s more dangerous for men to develop anorexia than for women because when males get down to the lowest weight ranges, they’ve lost more muscle and tissue as opposed to fat, which is something you can lose for a period of time without repercussions.

If left untreated, many cases of anorexia can be fatal. However, maleanorexia.net encourages people to get proper treatment to correct physical and psychological problems resulting from the illness.

If you or a loved one is suffering from anorexia, there is help available locally and across the country. Consult caringonline.com’s list of eating disorder treatment centers and clinics in your area, or call a list of hotline numbers provided on awarefoundation.org.