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Here’s how to know if a male in your life may be experiencing an eating disorder.

When you think of eating disorders, you may assume this condition primarily affects women. But about one in three people who have an eating disorder are men, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Eating disorders in males are also increasing at a faster rate than for females, according to research. But although the prevalence of eating disorders in men is higher than most people realize, men are much less likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders and are less likely to seek treatment.

Some of the most common eating disorders affecting both men and women include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: People with anorexia often see themselves as overweight even if they are very thin. They may eat very small amounts of food, avoid foods and exercise excessively.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Individuals with bulimia eat large amounts of food and then try to get rid of the calories through unhealthy behaviors like vomiting or over-exercising.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder: This involves regularly eating excessive amounts of food, often when not hungry, and feeling a lack of control during these episodes.

Signs of Eating Disorders in Men

Symptoms of eating disorders may be similar in both males and females. However, it is sometimes harder to spot symptoms in men due to societal beliefs that eating disorders mostly affect women. But identifying the signs of an eating disorder and encouraging a person to be evaluated can go a long way in getting them the help they need.

Here are some common signs of eating disorders:
  • Noticeable weight changes. Sudden and extreme weight loss or gain can be a sign that something is not right with a person’s relationship with food.
  • Obsession with food. Constantly talking about food, calories or dieting can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with eating or an unrealistic view of a person’s body image.
  • Severely restricting eating. If a person does not eat a lot of food or only eats very specific foods, it may be a sign of an eating disorder.
  • Exercising excessively. Engaging in extreme and obsessive exercise routines, even when it’s not necessary, can be a red flag.
  • Secretive eating habits. Hiding food, eating in secret or avoiding meals with others may suggest a person is facing an eating disorder.
  • Mood swings. Emotional changes, such as irritability, depression or anxiety, may indicate an underlying struggle with food and body image.
  • Self-esteem that is heavily influenced by body image. A person whose self-worth is closely tied to their perceptions of weight, physique or body image may be experiencing an eating disorder.
  • Social withdrawal. Men with eating disorders may become more withdrawn from friends and family, avoiding social situations that involve food.

It’s important to understand that eating disorders can affect anyone, including men. Recognizing the signs early on makes it more likely that a person can begin treatment, setting them on a journey toward recovery. Seeking help for an eating disorder is a sign of strength and no one has to face these challenges alone.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 18, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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