As a researcher and recovery expert, Fairwinds Treatment Center's Dr. Pauline Powers has seen firsthand that eating disorders can target men and women at any age. In fact, sometimes the people battling such issues are those the general public would least suspect.
In one such example, British cricket legend Andrew Flintoff recently revealed in an interview with journalist Piers Morgan that he struggled for years with bulimia. The 36-year-old professional athlete says that he can't remember exactly when his eating disorder began, but that it started when he was an adult and worsened during the height of his cricket career. He remembers slipping away after eating, then returning to the field to play, or purging after a night of heavy drinking.
Flintoff says that he wanted to get help, but felt that people would scoff at him.
"There was a woman who was a dietician, and she started saying about diet and how she dealt with models, actors and athletes who have had eating disorders," Flintoff told Morgan. "I thought 'I can have a chat with her afterwards,' and then she said 'but I can't imagine there is any of that in here,' so I thought 'I can't say anything now.'"
Flintoff says that as a professional athlete, he felt pressure to be "bulletproof," a sensation that many men with eating disorders can likely relate to. Our society stereotypes eating disorder sufferers in general, and bulimics in particular, as being young women, but the reality is that any male or female can develop these kinds of issues at almost any age.
Sam Thomas, the founder of a non-profit called Men Get Eating Disorders Too (MGEDT), started binging and purging when he was just 13. Thomas says he never saw his bulimia as a way to control his weight, but rather as a coping mechanism for handling severe bullying at school. His eating disorder gave him some sense of stress relief and control.
Thomas says that many male eating disorder sufferers, like Flintoff, are afraid to seek help because of the prevailing social stigma.
"It's seen as a weakness and a female thing, and there are many men who wouldn't feel comfortable talking about their disorders," Thomas tells The Telegraph, a British newspaper. "There's a sense of shame and a fear of not being taken seriously."
At Fairwinds Treatment Center, we believe that eating disorders often accompany underlying psychological, mental and/or emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Indeed, Flintoff has also publicly discussed his struggles with depression, which may very well have triggered or exacerbated his bulimia. Thomas was coping with the trauma of bullying and an absentee father when he developed his illness. That's why Dr. Powers treats our patients using a unique dual diagnosis methodology, combining clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling to facilitate healing of the mind, body and spirit. Each patient receives a personalized treatment plan to help them along the road to a lasting recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with bulimia or another eating disorder, such as anorexia or compulsive eating, don't expect the eating disorder to go away on it's own. These serious illnesses can take an enormous, lasting toll on the body if untreated, and may even result in death. However, recovery is entirely within reach with our dual diagnosis treatment. Contact Fairwinds Treatment Center, one of the top eating disorder treatment centers in the world, to learn more.