Our Story and Why I Wrote a Book on the Subject?
My name is Jenny Langley and my son nearly died from anorexia when he was just twelve years old. We simply couldn’t understand what had hit us, but when it did hit us it nearly destroyed our family. Thankfully we all survived, but at times we felt rock bottom. This website is designed to give hope and support to any other family going through the experience of boy anorexia.
Boys Don’t Get Eating Disorders!
Whilst eating disorders are normally thought to be a female domain, it is logical to assume that men and boys are not totally immune from eating disorders, but how many incidences of male eating disorders have you heard of? Certainly up until my son was afflicted I hadn’t ever heard of any examples. It turned out neither had my GP, any of the teachers at my son’s school, nor any of my friends or work colleagues. So it was a huge shock when my twelve year old son started to disappear before my eyes. He was a gifted child, in the streamed class at school, a great sportsman and he was very popular with his peers at school. His anorexia developed startlingly quickly, he lost 25% of his body weight in four months, before collapsing and being rushed into hospital. He was dangerously ill, but once his condition had stabilised he was treated as an inpatient at a specialist adolescent treatment centre for four months. The treatment regime was very strict and extremely difficult for a twelve year old boy to cope with. When Joe finally returned home there were some very difficult moments but the family worked hard together and with the out patient professional team to ensure the anorexia didn’t return.
Several years further on, and he is a thriving, healthy and happy young man, who is probably stronger both mentally and physically, having beaten his illness. The relapse rate is high for anorexics, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that this won’t happen to us, and we are looking forward to him having a healthy and happy future.
With the approvaI and support of my son and family I decided to write a book entitled Boys Get Anorexia Too, in which I describe our experiences, and outline the treatment options available. We felt totally alone as parents of an anorexic boy and hope that this book will provide practical guidance, comfort and most importantly hope to families finding themselves in a similar position. In recent years a few books and articles have been published on eating disorders in men and beat now has a men’s section on it’s website. There are also several American books on male eating disorders, which are very interesting, and at least acknowledge that there has been an explosion in the incidence of eating disorders in the male population over the last few decades. This provided us with some comfort, but didn’t really provide us with any guidance as to the best course of action, being parents in the UK, watching our son starve himself almost to death in front of our eyes.
As I have already said eating disorders are usually associated with females but an increasing number of males are known to be affected. Research as well as anecdotal evidence indicates that as many as 20 to 25% of school age adolescents who are affected by an eating disorder are male. However the number of males diagnosed and seeking treatment is roughly half that. Males and their families can find it hard to believe they may have an eating disorder, if they do seek treatment they may find it hard to get the correct diagnosis and even harder to get the appropriate treatment.
Thus there are several problems facing a family whose son starts to display signs of having an eating disorder:
- How do you diagnose an illness, which most people, including non specialist health care professionals have never heard of?
- How do you find appropriate treatment for such an illness?
- How do you cope with all the shocked reaction from your peers when you tell them what is wrong with your son?
- Where do you turn to for moral support if you can’t find a family that has been through a similar experience?
My book seeks to answer all these questions and more.
The book is written in two parts. The first part of the book is intended as an educational guide. It describes anorexia, what it is like to live with an anorexic boy, possible triggers, signs to look out for, effects on the family and the fact that boys get other eating disorders too. It also provides practical tips on how to cope with boy anorexia, treatment options, how to return to healthy eating and normal life and the importance of the carer(s) taking care of themselves as well.
The second part is a detailed and harrowing case study based on our experiences. Anorexia crept up on our son and then seemed to take over the whole family. We breathed a sigh of relief once he was taken into a specialist in patient unit, but little did we know how hard the treatment regime would be. A fragile emaciated 12 year old boy thrust into a world of teenage girls with a wide array of behavioural issues ranging from anorexia to self harm and attempted suicide. Unsurprisingly it took Joe a while to settle, but unusually for an anorexic he was determined to get better and despite the odds seeming to be towering against him at times, he did get better. He learnt a huge amount during his struggle with anorexia and has become much more sensitive to other people’s needs. When I broached the subject of writing this book he responded:
“If one other family benefits from reading about our experiences then it will have been worthwhile”.
I hope my book will provide encouragement to anyone who is involved in caring for or treating a young boy with eating problems. This includes parents, people working in health centres, clinics and hospitals and also youth support groups, teachers, school nurses and sports coaching staff, who are often the first to be aware of concerns about eating disorders in young men.