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Can Men Develop Eating Disorders?

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Updated January 25, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Can Men Develop Eating Disorders?
Answer:

One of the most prevalent myths regarding eating disorders is that they are only seen in women. This is simply not the case. In fact, it is estimated that 10% of people diagnosed with eating disorders are men.

  • The symptoms of eating disorders in males are similar to the symptoms seen in females, although the criteria for amenorrhea in anorexia nervosa does not apply.

  • Men are more likely than women to report binge eating as symptom. They are also less likely than women to report symptoms such as body checking or body avoidance (the complete avoidance of checking one's body or weight).

  • Just as in women, men and boys who participate in sports with a focus on weight and shape (such as wrestling, gymnastics and dance) experience higher rates of eating disorders.

  • The rate of eating disorders in men seems to be increasing along with increased messages in the media about the ideal male figure and advertisements regarding weight reduction in men. Men are under increasing pressure to conform to an ideal physique.

  • Homosexual men are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than heterosexual men. Some people hypothesize that the eating disorder develops as a way to suppress the sexual drive and thus suppress sexual conflicts. Others believe this is a result of a higher pressure within the homosexual community to be thin or to look a certain way.

Sources:

National Eating Disorders Association. (2005). Males and Eating Disorders: Research. Accessed June 20, 2012 at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/MalesRes.pdf.

Petrie, T.A., Greenleaf, C., Peel, J., & Carter, J. (2008). Prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors among male collegiate athletes. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 9(4). 267-277.

Striegel-Moore, R.H., Rosselli, F., Perrin, N., DeBar, L., Wilson, G.T., May, A., & Kraemer, H.C. (2009). Gender difference in the prevalence of eating disorder symptoms. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42(5). 471-474.

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