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Men Can Be Binge-Eaters, Too

When we think of eating disorders, the classic image is a waif-thin, anorexic woman.

But here's a question for men: Do you find yourself fasting after eating too much? Or maybe pushing through an insanely long run or workout, trying to compensate for overeating through intense exercise?

These are behaviors associated with binge-eating, a serious but very treatable condition. And a new study finds that men are almost as likely as women to develop the disorder — as well as some of the problems that often come along with it, including depression, anxiety, increased absences from work and weight gain.

"There's a widely held belief that eating disorders affect only women," study author Ruth Striegel tells The Salt. She's a psychology professor at Wesleyan University. Her study examined 46,351 people and found that 2,754 women (about 11 percent) and 1,630 men (about 7.5 percent) reported behaviors consistent with binge eating.

"What this study and other studies like it show is that men have these problems, too," says Striegel. She found that about 37 percent of men in the study who were binge-eaters were either in treatment for depression or reported symptoms of depression. This compares to a rate of just 12 percent of men reporting depression who were not binge eaters.

There was also a strong correlation between obesity and binge-eating. Her study found that nearly 64 percent of men who binge were obese, compared to about one-third of the men who were not binge-eaters.

"When you find yourself being a binge-eater," says Striegel, "it's helpful to access treatments that can help gain control over the binges."

There are several treatment options. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotherapy, especially Cogntive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has been shown to be effective. And research has found that antidepressants may reduce binge-eating episodes.

The Academy for Eating Disorders has informational videos and a database to locate therapists that treat the disorder.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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