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Are Eating Disorders More Common In Males Or Females

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Anorexia In Men And Boys: Treatment And Statistics

Study shows men, like women, also at risk for eating disorders

Even though eating disorders are often associated with youth and femininity, men can also develop unusual thoughts and behaviors involving food and weight. In fact, according to the British eating disorders charity BEAT, about 25 percent of those people diagnosed with an eating disorder are male.

Men can develop almost every single type of eating disorder a woman can get, and that includes anorexia. But men with anorexia may have different signs and symptoms than their female counterparts. These men may need gender-specific treatments in order to both understand and overcome their anorexia concerns.

Lgbtq+ Eating Disorder Statistics

  • Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men.6
  • Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight.6
  • Transgender college students report experiencing disordered eating at approximately four times the rate of their cisgender classmates.7
  • 32% of transgender people report using their eating disorder to modify their body without hormones.8
  • 56% of transgender people with eating disorders believe their disorder is not related to their physical body.8
  • Gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction in transgender people is often cited as a key link to eating disorders.7
  • Non-binary people may restrict their eating to appear thin, consistent with the common stereotype of androgynous people in popular culture.7

Eating Disorder Causes And Risk Factors

  • No single cause of eating disorders has been identified .
  • Eating disorders develop from a complex interaction of psychological risk factors, sociocultural influences, and biological and genetic predispositions .
  • Disordered eating is the most significant risk factor for the onset of an eating disorder .
  • Sociocultural influences are theorised to play a considerable role in the development of eating disorders, particularly amongst individuals who internalise the Western beauty ideal of thinness .
  • Common risk factors are gender, ethnicity, early childhood eating and gastrointestinal problems, negative self-evaluation, sexual abuse and other adverse experiences .
  • It has been identified that there are some personality traits that can make people more susceptible to developing Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa such as perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness, neuroticism, negative emotionality, harm avoidance, low co-cooperativeness, core low self-esteem and traits associated with avoidant personality disorder .
  • The best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealisation of thinness .
  • Recent research indicate genetics play a substantial role in the aetiology of eating disorders .
  • Heritability estimates range from 22-76% for Anorexia Nervosa, 52- 62% for Bulimia Nervosa and 57% for Binge Eating Disorder though more detailed research is required .

Learn more about eating disorders and risk factors

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Plastic Surgeons Fearing Violence Turn To Psychiatry To Screen Patients

More than a decade ago, Cohn asked an auditorium full of eating-disorder specialists how many of them had male patients. He saw a scattering of hands. When he conducted the same informal poll in 2013 at the International Conference of Eating Disorders, he said, nearly every one of the 900 attendees raised a palm: It was quite clear that over the period of about 10 years, clinicians went from a handful of people seeing males to almost everyone seeing males.

One study, published in January 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics, reported that almost one boy in five from a national sample said he was extremely concerned about his weight, and not necessarily because he had any reason to be. Among teenagers and college-age men, 8 percent were engaging in unhealthy behaviors, even using steroids, to pack on muscle and lose fat.

Yet for the most part, treatment remains inherently female-focused. One example: An adult inpatient program in Dallas established 22 years ago at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital was until 2015 housed in a womens building and could not take male patients at all.

This is not unusual. The Journal of Eating Disorders report noted that most programs are skewed toward women, and implored for change, saying, it is vital that barriers to help-seeking, such as stigma, ignorance more generally, and female-centric services, are addressed.

Waking Up To Work Out

What Are Eating Disorders?

Most men can take a mental inventory of everything they would like to improve without getting obsessed. Also, eating less and exercising more is an undoubtedly healthy way to grow stronger or lose a few pounds. In some men, though, probably owing to genetics, psychological distress or other reasons that arent understood, that desire for perfection becomes a fixation that dominates all else.

It starts to interfere with normal life: The guy who skips a best friends wedding because he doesnt want to eat the banquet. Or who turns down a promotion because it might interfere with daily two-hour gym sessions.

Sometimes a man with an eating disorder will get up in the middle of the night to work out. A study presented at the American Psychological Associations annual meeting in 2015 reported that about one-third of regular male gym-goers studied admitted to taking worrisome levels of bodybuilding supplements, some continuing even though they had developed kidney problems and their doctors advised them to stop.

If you find yourself wanting to cut down, and not able to, thats a sign that its problematic, Anderson said. You either cant stop or are deathly afraid of what will happen to your body if you do stop: Ill lose all my muscle mass. Ill get flabby. Ill get soft. Ill get scrawny again.

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Vulnerable To Eating Disorders Focusing On The Findings

Research that reinforces the biological influences on eating disorder vulnerabilities is crucial for further treatment for those that struggle with these illnesses. While not everyone who experiences poor body image will develop an eating disorder, understanding this vulnerability can perhaps be helpful with future investigations and perhaps prevention and treatment approaches.

If you are a woman that has identified with poor body image, it is important to discuss these issues with someone you trust and can confide in. Poor body image, left unaddressed, can further develop into a more serious issue, like an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her nutrition private practice.


Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 28, 2016 Published on

Gender Differences In Eating Disorder Risk Among Ncaa Division I Cross Country And Track Student

Paul A. Krebs

1Premier Health, Department of Family Medicine, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, 2261 Philadelphia Drive, Dayton, Ohio 45406, USA

2Department of Sociology, University at Buffalo, SUNY, USA

3Department of Family Medicine, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, USA

4Department of Health and Sport Science, University of Dayton, USA

Academic Editor:


Purpose. This study compared gender differences in eating disorder risk among NCAA Division I cross country and track distance running student-athletes. Methods. Six hundred thirty-eight male and female student-athletes competing at distances of 800m or greater completed the Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care . Scores on the ESP were used as the risk of eating disorders. Results. Females screened positive at higher rates for risk of eating disorders than males on the ESP at a cutoff of 2 with rates of and , respectively. Females were also screened positive at higher rates than males at a stricter cutoff of 3 , with rates of compared to , respectively.. This study highlights that, among distance runners, both males and females are at risk of eating disorders, with females being at higher risk. It also emphasizes the need for screening for risk of eating disorders in this population.

1. Introduction

2. Methods

3. Results


3 or 4 Positive Responses


4. Discussion

5. Conclusions

Data Availability

Conflicts of Interest

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Why Do Girls Suffer From Eating Disorders More Often Than Boys

One of the leading factors known to contribute to the development of an eating disorder is body dissatisfaction, or a negative body image. Body image is defined as ones thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes about their physical appearance.

In western culture, concern over body size and shape are all too common. Research has shown that women are more likely to possess a negative body image than men.

How do you see yourself? How do you feel about your body? Your height? Your weight? How do you feel about what you see when you look in the mirror? And more importantly, what informs those thoughts and perceptions? What sets the standards?

A positive body image is a clear, true perception of your shape, seeing the various parts of your body as they really are. Body positivity involves feeling comfortable and confident in your body, accepting your natural body shape and size, and recognizing that physical appearance says very little about your character and value as a person.

A negative body image, on the other hand, involves a distorted perception of your shape. Negative body image leads to feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness. If you feel your body is flawed in comparison to others, you are more likely to suffer feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, which research indicates contribute greatly to the development of eating disorders.

Bulimia Nervosa And Differences Between Genders

The pandemic is hard on people with eating disorders

Shannon Gartland, NCC, LPC

Bulimia nervosa affects 1-1.5% of females and there is a 10:1 ratio of females to males suffering from the disorder . Some research has been done to determine how risk factors for bulimia nervosa differ between men and women. Even as early as elementary school, differences begin to appear between how boys and girls think about their weight. These differences can be seen in a study done by Phares, Steinberg, and Thompson . In the study, the researchers found that on average girls were more worried about losing weight and had a greater desire to be thin than boys. In addition, they found that girls were more likely to perceive that they were getting messages from their parents about dieting and watching ones weight. Interestingly, however, boys and girls seemed to be nearly equal in their amount of dissatisfaction with their body and their tendency toward bulimic behaviors. Differences did occur in what seemed to be driving the bulimic tendencies. For girls these behaviors were related to influences of peers, history of eating concerns in the family, and how they viewed teasing by their parents. For boys none of these seemed to be significantly related other than the perception of teasing by parents.

American Psychiatric Association . Feeding and eating disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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Finding The Right Treatment

NEDA stresses that eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of all mental illnesses, and studies suggest that the risk of death for males with eating disorders is even higher than it is for women. Also, the longer an eating disorder isnât treated, the more likely stronger treatment will be needed.

âTreatment is not one-size-fits-all, and should be tailored to the individual,â says Chelsea Kronengold, NEDAâs senior communications associate. She says that men and people who are non-binary, or donât identify with either gender, may want to find a âtreatment provider or center that takes a gender-sensitive approach.â

That can come in many forms. There are eating disorders treatment centers geared toward male patients and centers experienced in treating men. But many families say it can be a struggle to find one near you or that you can afford.

âThe medicines involved are expensive. Insurance often doesnât cover everything. There are wide system failures,â Mechanick says.

Lack of resources in general — regardless of gender — was a problem that Nevada mom Ashley had. The local eating disorders clinic in her town just recently closed. Even if it were still open, it wouldnât have accepted her 10-year-old because it didnât work with patients under the age of 14. So when the situation became life-threatening, she drove 4 hours from home to admit her son to a hospital with well-respected eating disorders experts.

It wasn’t.

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If I Had An Eating Disorder In The Past Can I Still Get Pregnant

Yes. Women who have recovered from anorexia, are at a healthy weight, and have normal menstrual cycles have a better chance of getting pregnant and having a safe and healthy pregnancy.

If you had an eating disorder in the past, it may take you a little longer to get pregnant compared to women who never had an eating disorder.11

Tell your doctor if you had an eating disorder in the past and are trying to become pregnant.

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Bipoc* Eating Disorder Statistics

* BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

  • BIPOC are significantly less likely than white people to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.3
  • BIPOC with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or to receive treatment.2
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but may experience the condition for a longer period of time.4
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.3
  • Hispanic people are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.3
  • Asian American college students report higher rates of restriction compared with their white peers and higher rates of purging, muscle building, and cognitive restraint than their white or non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian, BIPOC peers.5

Athletes Eating Disorder Statistics

An Overview of the 3 Most Common Eating Disorders
  • Athletes report higher rates of excessive exercise than nonathletes.14
  • Athletes are more likely to screen positive for an eating disorder than nonathletes, but percentages across all probable eating disorder diagnoses are similar.14
  • Athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due to stigma, accessibility, and sportspecific barriers.14

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If I Take Medicine To Treat Anorexia Can I Breastfeed My Baby

Maybe. Some medicines used to treat anorexia can pass through breastmilk. Certain antidepressants can be used safely during breastfeeding.

Talk to your doctor to find out which medicine works best for you. Learn more about medicines and breastfeeding in our Breastfeeding section. You can also enter a medicine into the LactMed® database to find out if the medicine passes through breastmilk and about any possible side effects for your nursing baby.

How Is Anorexia Treated

Your doctor may refer you to a team of doctors, nutritionists, and therapists who will work to help you get better. If you live with family members they may be invited to participate in some of your treatment.

Treatment plans may include one or more of the following:

Most girls and women do get better with treatment and are able to eat and exercise in healthy ways again.10 Some may get better after the first treatment. Others get well but may relapse and need treatment again.

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Eating Disorders More Common In Males Than Realized

Boston Children’s Hospital
Parents and doctors assume eating disorders very rarely affect males. However, a study of 5,527 teenage males from across the US challenges this belief. Researchers found 17.9 percent of adolescent boys were extremely concerned about their weight and physique. These boys were more likely to start engaging in risky behaviors, including drug use and frequent binge drinking.

Parents and doctors assume eating disorders very rarely affect males. However, a study of 5,527 teenage males from across the U.S., published Nov.4 in JAMA Pediatrics, challenges this belief. Boston Children’s Hospital researchers found 17.9 percent of adolescent boys were extremely concerned about their weight and physique. These boys were more likely to start engaging in risky behaviors, including drug use and frequent binge drinking.

“Males and females have very different concerns about their weight and appearance,” says the study’s lead author Alison Field, ScD, from Boston Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Division. Evaluations for eating disorders have been developed to reflect girls’ concerns with thinness but not boys’ concerns, which may be more focused on muscularity than thinness.

Boys tended to be more interested in muscularity than thinness, with 9.2 percent of males reporting high concerns with muscularity, compared with 2.5 percent concerned about thinness and 6.3 percent concerned with both aspects of appearance.

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Statistical Methods And Measurement Caveats

Men deal with eating disorders

This webpage presents data from the following sources.

National Comorbidity Survey Replication

Diagnostic Assessment and Population:

  • The NCS-R is a nationally representative, face-to-face, household survey conducted between February 2001 and April 2003 with a response rate of 70.9%. DSM-IV mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the fully structured World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview , a fully structured lay-administered diagnostic interview that generates both International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, and DSM-IV diagnoses. The DSM-IV criteria were used here. Participants for the main interview totaled 9,282 English-speaking, non-institutionalized, civilian respondents. Eating disorders were assessed in a subsample of 2,980 respondents. The Sheehan Disability Scales assessed disability in work role performance, household maintenance, social life, and intimate relationships on 010 scales. The NCS-R was led by Harvard University.

Survey Non-response:

  • In 2001-2002, non-response was 29.1% of primary respondents and 19.6% of secondary respondents. Reasons for non-response to interviewing include: refusal to participate respondent was reluctant- too busy but did not refuse circumstantial, such as intellectual developmental disability or overseas work assignment and household units that were never contacted .
  • For more information, see PMID: 15297905 and the NIMH NCS-R study page.

Survey Non-response:

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