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:

Food rituals
Compulsive exercise and/or preoccupation with body mass, muscles, etc.
Preoccupation with food
Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age, height, body type, and activity level
Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced
Undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of current low body weight
Lying about eating or difficulty eating around others
Depression, isolation, loneliness
Unrealistic and perfectionistic standards
Difficulty expressing feelings
Low self-esteem
Need for control
Possible sexual orientation and gender identity issues
Decreased interest in sex, anxiety surrounding sexual activity
Fatigue and muscle weakness
Low blood pressure and body temperature
Thinning hair or hair loss, lanugo
Heart 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:

Recurrent episodes of binge eating
A 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)
Recurrent 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
Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight
Preoccupation with food
Hoarding, hiding, stealing food
Fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
Depression, isolation and loneliness
Difficulty expressing feelings
Possible sexual orientation and gender identity issues
Low self-esteem
Perfectionistic standards
Weight Fluctuations
Dental problems
Electrolyte 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:

Recurrent episodes of binge eating
Hoarding, hiding, stealing food
Eating rapidly and/or eating until uncomfortably full
Consuming large amount of food when not hungry
Body weight fluctuations
Depression, anxiety, and loneliness
Low self-esteem
Perfectionistic standards
Difficulty expressing feelings
Negative attention received about their body while growing up
Feelings of guilt and shame during and/or after a binge episode
Binge eating used to numb feelings, relieve tension, deal with anger, depression and other emotional states
Problems with heart and blood pressure and/or blood sugar problems
Joint 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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