Help for Anorexia and Bulimia and All Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

International Eating Disorder Referral Organization

Males and Eating Disorders



Some Basic Facts and Findings:

Approximately 7-10 million women across the country suffer from eating disorders. Most research into these serious disorders has been conducted on females. However, as many as a million men may also struggle with the diseases!

Eating disorders include extreme attitudes, emotions and behaviors surrounding both food and weight issues. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. All are serious emotional and physical problems that can have devastating effects and life-threatening consequences. Eating disorders affect both men and women. While eating disorders are less common in men, approximately 10% of those suffering from eating disorders are male (Wolf, 1991). Studies also demonstrate that cultural and media pressures on men for the "ideal body" are the rise.  This increased focus on body shape, size and physical appearance will likely contribute to increased numbers of eating disorder in males.  Research indicates that eating disorders in males are clinically similar to eating disorders in females (Schneider & Argas, 1987).

Studies also demonstrate that certain athletic activities appear to put males at risk for developing eating disorders. Body builders, wrestlers, dancers, swimmers, runners, rowers, gymnasts and jockeys are prone to eating disorder due to the weigh restrictions necessitated by their sports (Andersen, Bartlett, Morgan & Rowena, 1995).

Body image concerns appear to be one the strongest variables in predicting eating disorders in males. Studies have demonstrated (Wertheim et al, 1992) that the drive for thinness was a more important predictor of weight loss behaviors than psychological and/or family variables (this desire was true of both adolescent males and females).

Other studies have found that men with eating disorders tend to have more passive-aggressive personality styles and have had negative reactions to their bodies from their peers while growing up. Research also indicates that anorexic males tend to have more dependent and avoidant personalities. Males with anorexia do not tend conform to the cultural expectations for masculinity such as: to be competitiveness, muscularity/strength, physical aggressiveness, independence and competence in athletics (Kearney-Cooke & Steichen-Asch, 1990).  

We are learning more about the etiology of eating disorders in males every day. There is so much more to learn. It is important to remember that the devastating effects of eating disorders cross gender lines and severely impact the health and well-being of both men and women. Further, it is important that those suffering seek help!

Anorexia Nervosa in Males: Anorexia is a life-threatening disorder that is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.  

Some Symptoms include:

bulletFood rituals
bulletCompulsive exercise and/or preoccupation with body mass, muscles, etc.
bulletPreoccupation with food
bulletRefusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age, height, body type, and activity level
bulletIntense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
bulletDisturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced
bulletUndue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of current low body weight
bulletLying about eating or difficulty eating around others
bulletDepression, isolation, loneliness
bulletUnrealistic and perfectionistic standards
bulletDifficulty expressing feelings
bulletLow self-esteem
bulletNeed for control
bulletPossible sexual orientation and gender identity issues
bulletDecreased interest in sex, anxiety surrounding sexual activity
bulletFatigue and muscle weakness
bulletLow blood pressure and body temperature
bulletThinning hair or hair loss, lanugo
bulletHeart arrhythmia and electrolyte disturbances


Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a highly secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Bulimia includes eating large amounts of food (more than most people would eat in a meal) in a short period, then getting rid of the food and calories through vomiting, excessive exercise, or laxative abuse.

Some Symptoms include:

bulletRecurrent episodes of binge eating
bulletA sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating)
bulletRecurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise
bulletSelf-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight
bulletPreoccupation with food
bulletHoarding, hiding, stealing food
bulletFear of gaining weight or becoming fat
bulletDepression, isolation and loneliness
bulletDifficulty expressing feelings
bulletPossible sexual orientation and gender identity issues
bulletLow self-esteem
bulletPerfectionistic standards
bulletWeight Fluctuations
bulletDental problems
bulletElectrolyte imbalances


Compulsive Overeating is characterized by periods of uncontrolled, impulsive or continuous eating beyond the point of feeling full. While there is no purging, there may be fasts or repetitive diet attempts. Often there are feelings of shame and self-hatred after a binge.

Some Symptoms include:

bulletRecurrent episodes of binge eating
bulletHoarding, hiding, stealing food
bulletEating rapidly and/or eating until uncomfortably full
bulletConsuming large amount of food when not hungry
bulletBody weight fluctuations
bulletDepression, anxiety, and loneliness
bulletLow self-esteem
bulletPerfectionistic standards
bulletDifficulty expressing feelings
bulletNegative attention received about their body while growing up
bulletFeelings of guilt and shame during and/or after a binge episode
bulletBinge eating used to numb feelings, relieve tension, deal with anger, depression and other emotional states
bulletProblems with heart and blood pressure and/or blood sugar problems
bulletJoint problems

Other eating disorders may include some combination of signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, and/or compulsive overeating. These behaviors may not meet the clinical criteria of an "eating disorder"; however, they can still be extremely dangerous physically and psychologically. All forms of eating disorders require professional help.


Link to an article on the Fairwinds Treatment Center page about Males and Eating Disorders CLICK HERE


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The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Inc.:



Andersen, R.E., et al. (1995). Weight loss, psychological and nutritional patterns in competitive male body builders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18, 49-57.

Andersen, ROE. (1995). Eating Disorders in Males. In K. Brownell, K. & Fairburn, C.G., (Eds.), Eating Disorders and Obesity: A comprehensive Handbook. New York: Guilford Publications, Inc.

Dept. of Health and Human Services (1987, 1995). Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.

Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention, EDAP (1998). www,, Males and Eating Disorders.

Kearney-Cooke, A., & Steichen-Asch, P. (1990). Men, Body Image, and Eating Disorders. In A. Andersen (Ed.), Males with eating disorders (p. 47 New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Schneider, J.A., & Agras, W.S. (1987). Bulimia in males: A matched comparison with females. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 6, 235-242.

Shiltz, T. (1997). Eating Concerns Support Group Curriculum. Greenfield, WI: Community Recovery Press.

Wertheim, E.H. et al. (1992). Psychosocial predictors of weight loss behaviors and binge eating in adolescent girls and boys. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 12, 151-160.

Wolf, N. (1991). The beauty myth. New York: William Morrow.

*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care.  It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.


Males and ED

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