National Eating Disorders Association

Men and boys Despite the stereotype that eating disorders only occur in women, about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male, and subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among men as they are among women.

In the United States alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives. But due in large part to cultural bias, they are much less likely to seek treatment for their eating disorder. The good news is that once a man finds help, they show similar responses to treatment as women. Several factors lead to men and boys being under- and undiagnosed for an eating disorder. Men can face a double stigma, for having a disorder characterized as feminine or gay and for seeking psychological help. Additionally, assessment tests with language geared to women and girls have led to misconceptions about the nature of disordered eating in men.


Treatment is not one-size-fits-all. For any person, biological and cultural factors should be taken into consideration in order to provide an effective treatment environment.

Studies suggest that risk of mortality for males with eating disorders is higher than it is for females - early intervention is critical.

A gender-sensitive approach with recognition of different needs and dynamics for males is critical in effective treatment. Men and boys in treatment can feel out of place when predominantly surrounded by women, and an all-male treatment environment is recommended—when possible.

Men and boys with anorexia nervosa usually exhibit low levels of testosterone and vitamin D, and they have a high risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. Testosterone supplementation is often recommended.

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Infographic: Eating Disorders in Men & Boys

Eating Disorders in Men and Boys - InfographicGet the facts on eating disorders in men and boys with our infographic!

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There are numerous studies on male body image, and results vary widely. Many men have misconceived notions about their weight and physique, particularly the importance of muscularity. Findings include:

Most males would like to be lean and muscular, which typically represents the “ideal” male body type. Exposure to unattainable images in the media leads to male body dissatisfaction.

The sexual objectification of men and internalization of media images predicts drive for muscularity.

The desire for increased musculature is not uncommon, and it crosses age groups. 25% of normal weight males perceive themselves to be underweight and 90% of teenage boys exercised with the goal of bulking up.

Muscle dysmorphia, a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder, is an emerging condition that primarily affects male bodybuilders. Such individuals obsess about being adequately muscular. Compulsions include spending many hours in the gym, squandering excessive amounts of money on supplements, abnormal eating patterns, or use of steroids.

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