Anorexia Nervosa in Males

Anorexia nervosa is a severe, life-threatening disorder in which the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight, and exhibits a significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of his body, as well as dissatisfaction with his body shape and size.

Behavioral Characteristics:

  • Excessive dieting, fasting, restricted diet
  • Food rituals
  • Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting, or muscle toning
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Difficulty eating with others, lying about eating
  • Frequently weighing self
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Focus on certain body parts; e.g., buttocks, thighs, stomach
  • Disgust with body size or shape
  • Distortion of body size; i.e., feels fat even though others tell him he is already very thin

 

Emotional and Mental Characteristics:

  • Intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Strong need to be in control
  • Rigid, inflexible thinking, “all or nothing”
  • Decreased interest in sex or fears around sex
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Low sense of self-worth—uses weight as a measure of worth
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Perfectionistic -- strives to be the neatest, thinnest, smartest, etc.
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Irritability, denial -- believes others are overreacting to his low weight or caloric restriction
  • Insomnia

 

Physical Characteristics:

  • Low body weight (15% or more below what is expected for age, height, activity level)
  • Lack of energy, fatigue
  • Muscular weakness
  • Decreased balance, unsteady gait
  • Lowered body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Lanugo (downy growth of body hair)
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Lowered testosterone levels

 

Learn More:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a severe, life-threatening disorder in which the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight, and exhibits a significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of his body, as well as dissatisfaction with his body shape and size. Learn more.

Research on Males and Eating Disorders

Prevalence figures for males with eating disorders (ED) are somewhat elusive. In the past, ED have been characterized as “women’s problems” and men have been stigmatized from coming forward or have been unaware that they could have an ED. Additional research is needed, but several studies provide insight into the male experience of eating disorders. Learn more.

Enhancing Male Body Image

Recognize that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. There is no one "right" body size. Your body is not, and should not be, exactly like anyone else's. Try to see your body as a facet of your uniqueness and individuality. Learn more.

Strategies for Prevention and Early intervention of Male Eating Disorders

Eating disorders do not discriminate on the basis of gender. Men can and do develop eating disorders. Learn more.