Strategies For Living And Working Well With ADHD

Starting from childhood, it’s critical for school counselors to use evidence-based interventions to help students with ADHD stay organized and manage their time. And those skills can translate into the workplace as adults. According to Counseling@NYU, which offers an online master’s in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt, small steps to manage a child’s time in the classroom efficiently and minimize distractions can make a big difference in the long run.

As an adult, you can use similar practical tactics that school counselors would use to manage your ADHD. You might not struggle with all these issues, and all these solutions may not work for you, but these tips may help boost your productivity at work.

Minimize Distractions

  • Start work earlier or stay later when it’s quieter.
  • Keep your desk clear of clutter.
  • Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office. If you don’t have an office, find an empty office or a conference room.
  • Position your desk away from office traffic.
  • Ask if you can work from home on certain days.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones or listen to music (this can help the brain concentrate).

Track Time

ADHD means you may take longer to finish projects. So, it’s important to get help staying on track.

  • Bundle tasks. If you can, answer your phone, check your email and scan Twitter only at set times of the day. Otherwise, let your calls go to voicemail and stay off the Internet.
  • Clock yourself. Use an alarm or your phone to keep from veering off to another task. prematurely. A beeper also can be handy if you’re prone to hyper-focus and lose track of time.
  • Enlist your supervisor. Your boss may be able to help you stay on top of your deadlines with reminders and regular feedback.

Get Moving

If you’re prone to hyperactivity, you already know that moving any part of your body can bring relief. Turns out even tapping your fingers can help raise levels of dopamine and norepinephrine brain chemicals that help sharpen focus and attention, so:

  • Move around. If you’re restless, find an appropriate excuse to get up and walk. Grab a coffee from the cafe. Go to the bathroom. Take the stairs. Chat with a coworker down the hall.
  • Fidget. If you’re trapped at your desk or at a meeting, look for unobtrusive ways to release physical tension. You can discreetly wiggle your toes, tap your pen on your thighs, doodle, take sips of a drink or squeeze a stress ball.
  • Work out. Exercise can be a powerful antidote for hyperactivity. Just pick something you enjoy—whether it’s yoga, walking, biking or team sports—and get moving.

Don’t Forget Self-Care

It’s a myth that you can treat ADHD only with medications or professional therapy. Self-help strategies can also help corral your attention and energies, so you can focus and be productive. Here are some ways to help yourself:

  • Get out. Being outdoors, especially when the sun’s out, can boost your mood.
  • Eat right. Fuel your body with lean proteins, whole grains and vegetables.
  • Sleep well. Make getting quality shut-eye a priority. Avoid caffeine in the evenings, put away the phone and stick to a restful bedtime routine.
  • Chill out. Destress your mind and body with meditation, yoga, tai chi or mindful walking.

ADHD may be a well-known condition, but it’s often misunderstood. You may help yourself if you educate your loved ones and coworkers about how it affects your life and job. Then make these productivity and self-help tips your habits, and you might just turn chaos into calm.

 

Alexis Anderson is a Digital PR Coordinator covering K-12 education at 2U, Inc. Alexis supports outreach for their school counseling, teaching, mental health and occupational therapy programs.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Strategies-for-Living-and-Working-Well-with-ADHD

The Best Movies About Mental Health

It’s becoming increasingly more common for Hollywood to highlight mental health conditions in films. Because mental illness affects millions of Americans, it’s an extremely relatable theme. Sometimes, these movies show mental illness in a way that is inaccurate or stigmatizing. For those in “the business” who don’t have lived experience, it can be difficult to depict.

However, there are some movies that realistically show what it’s like to experience mental illness. Here’s a list of a few movies that get it right.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This movie, based on a true story, highlights the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russel Crow), a mathematical savant who lived with schizophrenia. The movie beautifully captures the challenges John faced throughout his life, including paranoia and delusions that altered his promising career and deeply affected his life. Through the magic of film, viewers can live John’s hallucinations with him, which feel as real to the audience as they did to him.

 

 

Matchstick Men (2003)

Roy (Nicolas Cage) is a con artist working with his protégé to steal a lot of money. While he may be confident in his ability to steal from the rich, he struggles in other aspects of his life. His debilitating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), agoraphobia and panic attacks make it difficult for him to leave his apartment or even open a door. When he discovers he has a 14-year-old daughter, he’s forced to evaluate his career choices and isolated lifestyle. Matchstick Men is an honest depiction of the rituals and behaviors of someone living with OCD.

 

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (2010)

You wouldn’t think a movie set in a mental health hospital could be a comedy. However, this well-crafted film tells the story of 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into a psychiatric ward because of his depressionand suicidal ideation. He ends up staying in the adult unit because the youth wing is under renovation. The hospital is not a scary place and the patients are not portrayed as “mad” or “insane”—it’s a safe place where people struggling are getting help, and using humor as a relief from the serious conditions that brought them there. This Hollywood approach to a psychiatric unit may be more comical than any real-life scenario, but it helps normalize the fact that sometimes people need this level of care.

 

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

After a stay in a mental health hospital, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is forced to move back in with his parents. His previously untreated symptoms of bipolar disorder caused him to lose both his wife and job, and he is determined to get his wife back. In his efforts, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him in exchange for Pat being her ballroom dance partner. Silver Linings Playbook represents the range of emotion that often occurs with bipolar disorder in a real and riveting way.

 

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Socially awkward Charlie (Logan Lerman) starts high school isolated and anxious. Luckily, he becomes friends with a group of charismatic seniors, including Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). His friends bring joy to his life, but his inner turmoil reaches a high when they prepare to leave for college. As the film goes on, we learn more about Charlie’s mental health journey—from his stay in a psychiatric hospital to the details of a childhood trauma. This coming-of-age movie does an exemplary job of showing the highs and lows of growing up with mental illness.

 

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

The opening scene of Skeleton Twins shows the film’s main characters, Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig), both attempting suicide. Milo’s attempt lands him in the hospital, which reunites the brother and sister after 10 years of estrangement. Both characters express their depression in candid and humorous ways as they learn to accept each other and themselves.

 

 

Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)

Cam (Mark Ruffalo), a father with bipolar disorder, becomes the sole caregiver for his two daughters while his wife (Zoe Saldana) goes away to graduate school. Throughout the movie, Cam faces many challenges that make it difficult for him to take care of his daughters. However, despite the severity of his condition (and some unique parenting methods that accompany it), Cam learns that he is a good father who cares deeply for his family. Infinitely Polar Bear is a very meaningful portrayal of how families can be impacted by mental illness.

 

Welcome To Me (2015)

Alice (Kristen Wiig) has just decided to go off her medications for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) when she wins the lottery. She impulsively buys her own talk show with the money, in which she shares her opinions with the world. Although portrayed in a humorous way, Alice shows many of the traits of BPD, including mood swings and unstable relationships. As her behavior pushes away the people closest to her—including her therapist—she starts to take her mental health condition more seriously and works to keep her loved ones in her life. In the process, she falsifies the myth that a person with BPD is selfish.

 

Inside Out (2015)

This quirky animation personifies the different emotions inside a young girl’s mind. Characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to help Riley through her family’s move to San Francisco. The emotions learn to work together to help Riley process the turmoil of adjusting to her new life. Inside Out is a clever, modern and well-made film that puts mental health into a new context.

 

Hopefully, as we continue to spread awareness and education, Hollywood will continue to make movies like the ones in this list that show what mental illness is really like.

By Laura Greenstein

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/The-Best-Movies-About-Mental-Health

Managing Your Mental Health During The Holidays

During the holiday season, many look forward to festivities with friends and family. But for others, this time can bring on or worsen stress, anxiety and depression.

There are a variety of factors that can bring on holiday anxiety and depression. Some people experience increased financial burden due to travel, gift and/or hosting costs. Others may feel overwhelmed as the holiday season often includes a packed calendar of parties, performances and traveling that can be difficult to balance with everyday responsibilities and self-care. Not to mention: High expectations to give perfect gifts and plan perfect events, as well as loneliness for those who aren’t with loved ones.

If you are experiencing any of these challenges, here are some coping tips you can use to manage your increased levels of anxiety, stress and sadness.

Stay In Therapy

Although the holiday season is overwhelmingly busy, do not cancel your therapy sessions to make time for other activities. The holidays can bring up difficult emotions. If you can, keep your scheduled therapy sessions to ensure you have built-in time to explore anything that comes up.

Mindfulness

In addition to professional mental health care, mindfulness can be a valuable mental wellness tool. Certain practices can be particularly helpful if you are traveling or running on an unusual schedule. If you’re new to mindfulness, the online MSW program at the University of Southern California created a Mindfulness Toolkit featuring free mindfulness resources, like guided meditations for beginners.

Don’t Rely On Drugs And Alcohol

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America recommends avoiding drugs and alcohol for comfort. While the prospect of escape can be appealing, substance use can ultimately worsen your issues. There is a 20% overlap between people with anxiety or mood disorders and substance use disorders, and substances can exacerbate symptoms. When you feel you need a relaxation aid, you can instead turn to a mindfulness tactic or other healthy coping mechanism.

Soak Up The Sun

Some struggle with depression during the winter months because of Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern. Exposure to bright lights, including fluorescent lights, can help ease symptoms. Even for those without this form of depression, walking outside in the sun can be an effective centering and calming tool. Numerous studies have pointed to the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, including stress relief, better concentration, lower levels of inflammation and improved mental energy.

Set Realistic Expectations

Another major source of anxiety, stress and depression around the holidays can be examining accomplishments from the past year. Some may experience negative feelings over not being at a place they feel they “should be” in life. Get yourself out of this space by adjusting expectations and setting realistic goals. For example, if you’re trying to establish an exercise routine, try setting a goal of talking a walk three times a week rather than vowing to do CrossFit every day.

Managing mental illness is always challenging, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. While the struggle can feel isolating, remember that you are far from alone. Seek help from professional mental health services, maintain your self-care routines and include mindfulness practices into your days as you approach 2018.

 

Colleen O’Day is a digital marketing manager and community outreach support for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health and K-12 education programs. Find her on Twitter @ColleenMODay.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Managing-Your-Mental-Health-During-the-Holidays

Pets Help People Manage The Pain Of Serious Mental Illness

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTwIK-vEEKw

(Check out this short compilation of baby goats! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTwIK-vEEKw)

Mental illness can be isolating, making the companionship of pets even more precious.

Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most.

“When I’m feeling really low they are wonderful because they won’t leave my side for two days,” one study participant with two dogs and two cats, “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

Another person said of their pet birds: “If I didn’t have my pets I think I would be on my own. You know what I mean, so it’s — it’s nice to come home and, you know, listen to the birds singing and that, you know.”

Many people with serious mental illness live at home and have limited contact with the health care system, says Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and the lead author on the study, which was published Friday in the journal BMC Psychiatry. So they’re doing a lot of the work of managing their conditions.

Brooks says, “Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family.”

Brooks and her colleagues interviewed 54 people with serious long-term mental illnesses. Twenty-five of them considered their pets to be a part of their social network. The scientists asked who they went to when they needed help or advice, where they gained emotional support and encouragement and how they spent their days.

The participants were then given a diagram with three consecutive circles radiating out from a square representing the participant. They were asked to write the people, places and things that gave them support into the circles, with the circles closest to the center being the most important.

Sixty percent of the people who considered pets to be a part of their social networks placed them in the central, most important circle — the same place many people put close family and social workers. 20 percent placed pets in the second circle.

This study participant had a limited social network, so he placed his birds in the closest social circle in his life, along with his social worker and gardening group.

Helen Brooks/University of Manchester

The interviews with participants are poignant, and reveal the struggle and isolation that can come with mental illness.

“I think it’s really hard when you haven’t had a mental illness to know what the actual experience is [like],” said one participant. “There’s like a chasm, deep chasm between us … [Other people are] on one side of it, and we’re on the other side of it. We’re sending smoke signals to each other to try and understand each other but we don’t always — we don’t always understand.”

People with mental illnesses often see their social groups shrink and find themselves alienated from their friends. For many of these people, says Brooks, animals can break through the isolation. They give affection without needing to understand the disorder.

“[Pets] don’t look at the scars on your arms,” one participant said. “They don’t question where you’ve been.”

The pets provided more than just emotional support and companionship, participants said. The animals also could distract them from their illness, even from severe psychosis.

One study participant placed birds in his closest social circle. When he was hearing voices, he said that they “help me in the sense, you know, I’m not thinking about the voices, I’m just thinking of when I hear the birds singing.”

Another participant said that merely seeing a hamster climbing the bars on the cage and acting cute helped with some difficult situations.

And having to take care of pets keeps people from withdrawing from the world. “They force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved,” said one participant.

Another said that walking the dog helped them get out of the house and with people. “That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah.”

“The routine these pets provide is really important for people,” says Brooks. “Getting up in the morning to feed them and groom them and walk them, giving them structure and a sense of purpose that they won’t otherwise have.”

Many of the study participants are unemployed because of their illness, she notes. Having a pet that was well taken care of was a source of pride for them.

Mark Longsjo, the program director of adult services at McLean Southeast, an inpatient mental facility in Middleborough, Mass., says that the interviews in the study reflect his professional experiences. “We have so many patients come through, and we always ask them about their support system. Sometimes its family members, sometimes its friends, but it’s very common to hear about pets.”

When he does patient intake surveys, Longsjo says that he includes pets in their risk assessments. Patients with pets often say the animals help keep them from following through on suicidal thinking, because they know their pets depend on them.

The social workers at McLean also incorporate pets into their aftercare planning, encouraging patients to make walking and grooming their pets a part of their routine. “I think there’s significant value in considering the common everyday pet to be as important as the relationships one has with one’s family in the course of their treatment,” says Longsjo. He feels this study is important because, although there’s a lot of work looking at the benefits of trained therapy animals, they can be expensive and out of the reach of many patients.

Brooks hopes that more health workers will consider incorporating pets into care plans for people with mental illness. Many of her participants said that sometimes it felt like their pets could sense when they needed help the most, and were able to provide it — just like the owners took care of them.

As one person in the study said, “When he comes up and sits beside you on a night, it’s different, you know. It’s just, like, he needs me as much as I need him.”

By Erin Ross

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/09/504971146/pets-help-people-manage-life-with-serious-mental-illness

8 Tips For Mental Wellness During the Holidays

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The holiday season is a busy time for most.  There is so much to do, attend and plan, which can bring up feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and depressed. Conversely, this is also a time where people may feel acutely aware of the void left by the loss of a loved one, and their own personal loneliness.

Who is affected?

Holiday depression, anxiety and stress can affect anyone at any age. Sometimes, these feelings are triggered by a specific event or life experience. There are many things happening around the holidays that can act as triggers.

What can I do about this?

Holiday depression, stress, anxiety can be managed by following the tips listed above. Many people who experience depression, anxiety and stress during the holidays may think that they should just be able to ‘get over it’ on their own. Others may need time to recognize how deeply this affects their life. If your holiday depression, anxiety or stress seems severe or is interfering with your job or home life, talk to your doctor.

Many people’s benefit plans run January to December. It could be beneficial to check into your plan before the end of the year so you can use sessions before they expire.

How can I help a loved one?

Supporting a loved one who is experiencing holiday depression, anxiety or stress can be difficult. You may not understand why your loved one feels or acts a certain way. Some people who experience this feel like they have to do things a certain way or avoid things or situations, and this can create frustration or conflict with others. You may feel pressured to take part in these behaviours or adjust your own behaviours to protect or avoid upsetting a loved one. Support can be a delicate balance, but you should expect recovery—in time.

Here are some general tips:

  • Ask your loved one how you can help them.
  • Be patient—learning and practising new coping strategies takes time.
  • If your loved one is learning new skills, offer to help them practice.
  • Listen and offer support, but avoid pushing unwanted advice.
  • Set boundaries and seek support for yourself, if needed.

Here are some of the most common holiday triggers and tips to prevent and/or lessen holiday depression, anxiety and stress. Remember, that you always have a choice and there are options available to you. We wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season.

Tip1

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Practise mindful meditation

Mindful meditation is paying attention on purpose, without judgement, when we look at our thoughts and feelings.

At the start or end of the day, take a break and check in with yourself. We are on autopilot 24/7 from when we wake up. We are helping family, working, dealing with responsibilities, and we never really check in with ourselves. Our days impact us, and if we don’t check in with ourselves our stresses can blend into the next day, and then the next and suddenly we have compounded that stress. If we just take 10 or 20 minutes a day to slow down, ask ourselves how our day has impacted us and how we are feeling, we can mediate that pile up of stress.

It is okay to feel stressed, worried or angry, and if we allow ourselves the opportunity to explore why we are feeling these emotions with curiosity, and non-judgement, we can understand ourselves better.

Routine

It can be beneficial to create routine in your life. Routine can be the foundation of solid mental health. Routine can help you to cope better in times of stress, ensures that you get enough sleep, and can prevent additional problems from occurring.

By CMHA Alberta

https://www.mymentalhealth.ca/8-tips-for-mental-wellness-during-the-holidays/

Millennials And Mental Health

As a mother of two Millennials, I’ve noticed differences between their generation and mine. Like how they prefer to spend money on travel, amazing food and experiences rather than physical things like homes and cars. These aren’t negative qualities—just different.

There is one difference I’ve noticed that is extremely positive: how they view mental health. I recently had a conversation with my oldest daughter, Mackenzie, who struggles with anxiety.

“Mom, you wouldn’t believe how many people my age talk about mental health,” she said. “It’s not a taboo subject anymore. I know a lot of people at work and friends outside of work who see therapists or take medication for anxiety and depression.”

I couldn’t hide my smile. Obviously, I’m not happy they’re dealing with mental illness, but I’m glad they’re not afraid to bring up the subject. My experience growing up was completely the opposite. I felt totally alone. My panic attacks began when I was 10 and I kept it a secret. I didn’t want to be seen as strange or different. By the time I was in my 20s, I panicked every time I drove or went to the grocery store. I knew my symptoms weren’t normal, but I still said nothing. Stigma and fear kept me quiet.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie was 23 when symptoms of anxiety first started to show. At first, I don’t think she wanted to admit she was having problems. She spent hours at the office, working her way up; she rarely took time to relax, never thinking much about her mental health. She blamed her lack of sleep on her motivation to get ahead, and her lack of appetite on acid reflux. But there was a deeper problem.

Mental health conditions run in our family. My mom had depression. My youngest daughter and I have recovered from panic disorder. Mackenzie was aware of our family history, and maybe that made it easier for her to talk about her symptoms. But I think the main reason she was encouraged to get professional help was that she heard her friends and coworkers openly discuss their mental health issues. Mackenzie didn’t feel ashamed or alone.

Millennials are often referred to as the “anxious generation.” They were the first to grow up with the constant overflow of the Internet and social media. The Internet can make life better, but it can also make life complicated, as Millennials often compare their personal and professional achievements to everyone else’s. This can result in low self-esteem and insecurity.

The world is at Millennials’ fingertips, but they also feel its immense weight. “Everything is so fast-paced and competitive. Part of that is social media,” Mackenzie told me. “The sense of immediacy—everything has to happen right away, at the click of a button. There’s pressure to constantly be ‘on.’ To look and sound perfect, and act like you have it all together. But you don’t.”

She continued, “I’m relieved my friends and I talk about being anxious and depressed. I don’t have to pretend anymore.”

2015 study by American University said that Millennials grew up hearing about anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and suicide, and they are more accepting of others with mental illness. Millennials are more likely to talk about mental health than their parents or grandparents. As more people speak out, the stigma surrounding mental illness is beginning to lessen.

Word is spreading through social media that mental health is an important part of overall well-being. Celebrities are openly sharing their struggles. The younger generation is learning about mental illness at an earlier age (thanks to programs like NAMI Ending the Silence).

It’s still difficult for many people to be open about their mental health issues—I’m not saying stigma is completely gone. But at least it’s not a totally taboo subject, like it was when I was growing up. I’m thankful Millennials are helping to break that stigma barrier a little further. I’m so glad my daughter doesn’t feel alone.

 

Jenny Marie is a mental health advocate and blogger. Jenny is married and has two daughters. Her blog is called Peace from Panic.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Millennials-and-Mental-Health

16 Affirmations That Will Make You Feel A Little Bit Better About Everything

Toronto illustrator Hana Shafi — also known as Frizz Kid — frequently bases her work around feminist, mental health, identity, and pop culture themes.

That’s led her to make dozens of affirmation images that have been a hit on her Tumblr and Instagram.

Here are 16 — just in case you need them right now.

1.

Hana Shafi

2.

Hana Shafi

3.

Hana Shafi

4.

Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

11.

Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

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Hana Shafi

15.

Hana Shafi

In Depth: Eating Disorders in Men

People often think “Eating disorders are a woman’s disease.” This myth is constantly reinforced by character portrayals on television, targeted advertisements, and even studies and articles that draw from exclusively female samples. The sad reality is that eating disorders affect any and all genders, and those who do not identify as female may even suffer more with the very diagnosis of their disease due to the stereotype that eating disorders are feminine. Therefore, although eating disorders affect each individual differently, it is important to consider one’s gender identification in order to increase efficacy for prevention, detection, and treatment of the disease.

Why do men get eating disorders?

While beauty standards for women emphasize thinness, men are taught to prioritize muscle gain. Similar to women’s beauty standards, this fixation on strength derives from cultural gender norms and is perpetuated at a very young age. Throughout the past five decades, the muscles on action figures have been getting significantly larger. Comparable to the physically impossible size measurements of Barbie, the 1998 Wolverine doll had a waist the size of its bicep and half the size of its chest.1 One study confirmed that male college students who were assigned to play with the most unrealistic action figure dolls then reported the lowest levels of self-esteem.2 Another study found that men’s confidence surrounding their physique plummeted after watching music videos that featured hyper-muscular stars. Even more fascinating—researchers still observed this drop in self-esteem after the male participants watched music videos in which the main star did not have outrageous bulging muscles, but rather, was a more realistic depiction of an average (white) American male.3 These unanimous declines in body image indicate that men are deeply susceptible to ingesting harmful media standards, and these standards can take a lifelong toll on their body image.

What do eating disorders look like for men?

These dips in body image can oftentimes lead men to develop an unhealthy fixation on their build or, in some cases, an eating disorder. The estimated rates of men with eating disorders vary. Some studies cite that for every 10 women with an eating disorder there is 1 man with the disorder14, while other studies indicate that 25% of eating disorders occur in men5. The discrepancy in these statistics is due to the fact that many men with eating disorders do not report their disease, due to shame and fear of suffering from a “female” issue. Another stereotype is that the men who are diagnosed with eating disorders are predominantly homosexual. This assumption has been widely disproved, and in fact 80% of men with eating disorders are heterosexual.4 That being said, confusion surrounding sexual orientation can be a contributing cause for eating disorder in some men, so it is important to acknowledge sexuality during the treatment process.

Men can suffer from any and all types of eating disorders, but some of the most prevalent eating disorders among men are binge eating disorders or exercise addictions. As for the former, American culture is actually more accepting of men with binge eating disorder than their female counterparts. This acceptance is positive for men who may avoid emotional scarring from fat shaming, but it is negative for men who are enabled to continue binge eating because their symptoms are not validated as being disordered eating, and therefore they are significantly less likely to seek treatment. However, the severity of binge eating disorder among men should not be minimized. A recent article, which profiled men with binge eating disorders, included testimony from a man whose early life traumas caused him to weigh 724 pounds by the time he was 34 and from another man who gained and lost 100 pounds 4 times throughout his life.4

Exercise addiction, sometimes called Anorexia Athleticism, is also prevalent among men with eating disorders.1 These addictions usually stem from a cultural aversion to softness, particularly in men.6 Many of the behaviors characteristic of this addiction are similar to those of anorexia, including restlessness, physical over-activity, and self-starvation.1 This addiction can also lead men to develop substance abuse problems, particularly with steroids. Over two million men in the United States have reported using anabolic steroids at some point in their lives, and while these drugs do not have any immediate effects, they can have disastrous physical and emotional long-term effects, such as high cholesterol, depression, and prostate enlargement.1

How do we treat men with eating disorders?

Because there are so few studies on men with eating disorders, there is not enough substantive literature that indicates how (or if) eating disorder treatment should vary between men and women. However, there are some known factors to bear in mind when treating male eating disorder clients. While women are more susceptible to developing eating pathology if they have a history of feeling fat, men have a much greater risk of developing an eating disorder if they were actually obese during childhood.1 Additionally, men who have a history of sexual trauma are more prone to develop an eating disorder due to the body image disturbance that can occur as a result of their abuse.1 Men who experience a sexual assault can also develop a drive to build their muscle mass because they believe that becoming stronger and more masculine will make them more prepared in the event of a future threat.1 Additionally, depression can be a major cause of eating disorders, but since depression is also stigmatized as a “feminine” disease, it can go severely underreported.1

Men who have confusion surrounding their sexuality may find comfort in starvation, especially because anorexia can lower their testosterone levels and lead to asexuality, so by wiping out their sexuality altogether they no longer have to cope with the internal worry.1 However, this can make treatment much more difficult because regaining weight will unleash any sexual feelings they may have been repressing, which restarts the sexual discovery many men dread. Eating disorders are also common among men who identify with an “undifferentiated” or “feminine” gender role. Therefore, understanding the sexuality and gender of a male patient is imperative in order to grasp the underlying influences for one’s eating disorder.

Finally, many male eating disorder clients who engage in excessive exercise have Muscle Dysmorphia, which is categorized as an obsession with one’s body or muscle size.1 However, since there are no official diagnostic criteria relating to food or diet, it is not technically considered an eating disorder, even though the symptoms and treatment suggestions are almost identical to those for eating disorders.1 Therefore, treatment practitioners must be able to identify the ways in which Muscle Dysmorphia manifests and may contribute or cause an eating disorder.1

Although there is still major progress to be made in the depiction of eating disorders as diseases that affect all genders, there is promising evidence to suggest that men can successfully recover from eating disorders. However, because men are taught a completely unique set of beauty standards, their eating disorders manifest in many different ways and they require specialized treatment that reflects these cultural gender differences. The sooner we abandon the stereotypical notion that eating disorders exclusively affect one group of people, the quicker we can pave the way for reduced stigma, access to recovery, and a bright future for all eating disorder clients.

http://www.emilyprogram.com/blog/eating-disorders-in-men