12 Things You May Not Know About Eating Disorders in Males


Each year I unveil one of the many disguises of eating disorders.  When we think of eating disorders the vision that is most conjured up is an undoubtedly starving young, white female.  And while that is a common portrait of the eating disorders landscape, it doesn’t tell the whole story.  This year I am spotlighting eating disorders in males, a malady that is rarely recognized or talked about.

Most of the research conducted on eating disorders has been done on females, so information tends to be a bit sketchy when it comes to males.  But here are some alarming things to consider regarding males and eating disorders:

  1. It is estimated that 1 out of every 10 people with eating disorders is male, meaning hundreds of thousands of males are affected.
  2. Men are less likely to seek treatment because it is perceived as a “women’s disease” and admitting they have an eating disorder threatens their masculinity.
  3. In males the highest reported incidence seems to be in the gay population, with 14% suffering from bulimia and 20% from anorexia, but that may be because they are more open about seeking treatment and overcoming the stereotype that it is a female disorder.
  4. More American males have eating disorders than prostate cancer or die of heart disease annually.
  5. Eating disorders in males can develop at any age, but most are likely to develop between the ages of 14 and 25.
  6. Doctors are less likely to make a diagnosis of eating disorders in males than in females.
  7. Overeating or bingeing is receives less attention in males than in females.
  8. Young males tend to diet to avoid being teased about being fat.
  9. Males diet to improve their athletic performance or muscle definition and purge to make weight in a sport.
  10. Just as with females, eating disorders in males is associated with higher rates of anxiety disorders, OCD, depression and substance abuse issues.
  11. Just as with females, males with eating disorders are perfectionists, overachievers and pleasers.
  12.  Males with eating disorders are often compulsive exercisers and become anxious if they cannot exercise.

Recognizing an eating disorder and the need for treatment is the first step in healing.  If you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder seek help today.

Mary Beth George, MEd, RD/LD, LPC

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