Health

This College Athlete Is Speaking out About Eating Disorders

For one reason or another, eating disorders are generally thought of as conditions that only affect women. That's simply not the case. On Sunday, Penn State football player Joey Julius opened up on Facebook revealing how his struggle with eating disorders contributed to mental health problems and kept him off the field earlier this year.

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It's true that, statistically, women suffer from eating disorders at about twice the rate of men. In America, 20 million women will experience a "clinically significant" eating disorder in their lifetime, compared to 10 million men, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. But that's still millions of male sufferers — and the lack of conversation around the issue might well reflect a unique stigma attached to eating disorders for men.

Here's what Julius, the Penn State kicker, wrote:

"After a long consideration of not only myself, my family, and my team I have decided to go public about my absence from the team during spring ball of 2016 and thru out this summer. I was admitted into the McCallum place on may 9th for eating disorders. Due to my increase in not only weight but also depression and anxiety my team physicians started to notice not only a change in my overall happiness but also my performance as a normal human being. Throughout this whole process I learned a lot about myself. I learned that for the last 11 years of my life I have suffered through a disorder known as binge eating disorder. Although I showed signs of bilemia through stints of purging from extreme anxiety placed on myself I am certain that binge eating disorder is my true diagnosis thru extensive care this summer for about three months of treatment in St. LOUIS Missouri until July 26th."

Julius credited his coach, training staff, and doctors for helping him come to terms with his condition and offered to help "anyone guy or girl" who is struggling with eating disorders. The Facebook post has hundreds of comments commending the college athlete for opening up about his experience and defying stereotypes.

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Experts agree that male eating disorders are uniquely stigmatized and underrepresented in the media. But research — including a widely cited 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics — reveals that men suffer from body image issues and eating disorders at similarly troubling rates. Almost 20 percent of adolescent boys who participated in the study expressed concern about their weight and physical appearance, for example.

"The misunderstanding has been the generalization that eating disorders are a woman’s issue," Dr. Raymond Lemberg, a psychologist who specializes in male eating disorders, told The Atlantic. "What studies have shown is that, in the last 15 years or so, more men have eating disorders than ever before."

RELATED: How Some Eating Disorders Are Hidden in Plain Sight