What Are Male Anorexia Symptoms?

Learn to recognize male anorexia symptoms from Allegra Broft, M.D. in this Howcast video about eating disorders.


So, symptoms of anorexia in men, in many respects are not that much different than the symptoms you see in women. So, the cardinal features of Anorexia nervosa are a relentless pursuit of thinness, a refusal or an inability to maintain a minimally medically appropriate body weight in association with an extreme fear of gaining weight even though their underweight. A distortion or disturbance in the way of one's body, shape, or weight is experienced. Perhaps an overvaluation of the importance of one's shape and weight in determining one's self worth or self esteem. Or there may be a denial of the seriousness of maintaining the underweight state.

And these essential features of anorexia are no different between men and women. Anorexia nervosa, the diagnosis of Anorexia nervosa in recent years has also involved the diagnostic criteria of amenorrhea or absence of menstrual cycles. Of course we know in men that diagnostic criteria simply cannot apply. So that's one core feature of Anorexia nervosa that's simply not relevant. But there are other things that maybe specific to Anorexia nervosa as it manifests in men. One thing that I think seems to inform the development of Anorexia nervosa is that for males there may be kind of an evaluation of or an overvaluation of an athletic ideal or a very lean, low body fat, muscular, body ideal as opposed to the extremely thin, emaciated, cachectic, body ideal that is seen promoted in some entertainment vehicles like TV or like fashion magazines. So that men may be more striving for an athletic ideal than for a thin model-esque ideal.

Men may be also vulnerable to some different types of use of substances to help facilitate body, shape, and weight ideal. So, for example, steroid use might be something that is seen more commonly in male patients with Anorexia nervosa than would be seen in female patients. And finally, there may be some things about male patients that are stylistically a little bit different in terms of their approach of seeking out help or realizing that they have a problem. Men may be very prideful about things that are going on in their emotional world they may not want to disclose. And it may be that much harder for a man to reach out and acknowledge there's a problem than try to access help. Of course, that's a generalization but may be true in certain instances.

Male eating disorders, male Anorexia nervosa is actually something that we are still getting a lot of research on. And we really still don't know as much as we should. Male patients with Anorexia nervosa are the minority of patients with Anorexia nervosa. They're really probably about 10 percent, maybe slightly higher, of the total patients with Anorexia nervosa. And much of the research in the past has come out of studies of women with Anorexia nervosa. So we still have a lot to learn but nonetheless, know that some of the same core principles apply of Anorexia nervosa as we see it in women and men and that treatments that are currently for Anorexia nervosa can really help, irrespective of gender.

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