Most news stories on eating disorders fail to make the distinction between what causes an eating disorder and what triggers the disorder. They're two very different things. According to the latest research and thinking, eating disorders are caused by alterations in brain chemistry that register anxiety and mood, hunger and fullness. That, right there, is pretty much the root cause, though I could potentially be burned at the stake as a heretic for saying so.
I'm not a freaky reductionist, though. Environment is important, as environment triggers and maintains the disorder. Environment starts during fetal development and never stops. Your environment could be your season of birth, the magazines you read, the TV shows you watched, the food you ate, the friends you had. Although fully separating genetics and environment is impossible, I am willing to say that the cause of an eating disorder isn't the same as the trigger.
Which is why I read this article with more than a little dismay: 'Crisis In Masculinity' Leads To Eating Disorders In Straight Men
I understand that men have far different experiences of eating disorders than women, and that these stories are worth paying attention to. We can (and should!) learn from them. Although a man's experience of an eating disorder is going to be different, the illness is the same. Same cause, but there could be different triggers.
A eating disorder isn't about a crisis of masculinity or femininity. It's a disorder that started with malnutrition and snowballed out of control. It's not a choice, it's not a way to resolve problems or existential issues. The article says the following:
Images of skeletal models or men with 'six-packs', plus a plethora of choices now open to men, is at the root of body dissatisfaction, Dr [John] Morgan said.
"To be a young man is our society is a difficult thing. What you do and who you are is less straightforward. Women were challenged decades ago to consider which of the many different social roles they adopted. Now men are having to respond to the choices that society gives them.
"Suddenly younger straight men have similar pressures to gay men and women. There is a crisis of masculinity in our society. They are given all these roles and to simply decide to manipulate your body is a nice easy solution to all the complexities of life."
What part of an eating disorder is a "simple decision"? Perhaps the initial weight loss, but the actual disorder is far more complex and this kind of thinking does sufferers a great disservice. Body image woes can certainly trigger an eating disorder, and there is some evidence to suggest that people with eating disorders perceive their own bodies differently than they perceive other people's bodies. And being a young person is almost always a difficult task, and societal pressures don't help, but they don't ultimately cause an eating disorder in women or in men.