Anorexia in Men

Anorexia in Men

Anorexia and other eating disorders are serious illnesses that can impact people not only physically but also mentally. And while a stereotype of eating disorders is that they are a “women’s disease,” this is not true: anyone, regardless of gender, age, or background is at risk of developing one. In fact, the National Eating Disorders Association says that about 10 million men in America alone will suffer from an eating disorder at some point during their lifetimes.  

In the past, specialists have been unable to pin down any singular cause behind the development of eating disorders; they now largely agree that it is a combination of environmental, biological, and genetic factors that could increase one’s likelihood of developing one.


How Many Men Suffer From Eating Disorders?

The National Eating Disorders Association has compiled several helpful studies and their results into one place, shedding light on many trends in eating disorders and their development. One study cited found that subclinical eating disorder behaviors such as binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting are almost just as common in men as they are in women. Another study found that 42% of men who suffer from eating disorders identify as gay; this points to a potential increase in behavior linked to eating disorders as well as distorted body images in the gay community.


Men and Anorexia

When it comes to anorexia nervosa, a study cited by the National Eating Disorders Association found that of all the individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa, about 25% of them are men. Additionally, men suffering from anorexia unfortunately have a higher risk of mortality; this is partially because they are often diagnosed later due to stigma and societal biases. And at any moment, about 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa in some capacity. 


Treating Men with Eating Disorders

Some studies suggest that men are actually at a higher risk of mortality than females, making early intervention a key part of successful treatment. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, it is important to take a gender-sensitive approach in treating eating disorders, as gender dynamics and differing needs are essential to success. For instance, boys and men could feel out of place if they are in a treatment setting that surrounds them by women; in general, the National Eating Disorders Association recommends that, when possible, men be placed in all-male treatment environments.


Effects of Anorexia in Men

While anorexia nervosa may strike people of any gender and have many physical, emotional, and behavioral signs and immediate and long term effects. There are, however, some potential side effects that could be higher in men, such as:

  • Low levels of vitamin D and testosterone
  • High risk of osteoporosis and osteopenia, or thinning of the bones


Thankfully, eating disorders are treatable, though every individual’s treatment plan will develop on the particulars of the situation at hand. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, you may wish to reach out to an eating disorder hotline. Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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