Eating Disorders in Boys and Men Are Growing but Underdiagnosed and Undertreated

Mar 14, 2023
Eating Disorders in Boys and Men Are Growing but Underdiagnosed and Undertreated
Eating disorders are often associated with young women, but you may not be aware that boys and men also experience them. Unfortunately, they are often missed by providers. Learn how males can get help.

People often associate eating disorders with teen girls and young women, especially since the fashion industry and all-encompassing world of social media portray impossible-to-attain body standards.

Many are shocked, however, to learn that eating disorders are on the rise in boys and men. In fact, about 1 in 3 people diagnosed with an eating disorder is male, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). 

The caring team at Clarity Psychiatric Care — Dr. Amy Carnall and Cristina Sertway — combine years of valuable clinical experience with deep compassion for the children, adolescents, and adults they treat. Fortunately, their expertise includes the area of eating disorders. 

What constitutes an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a condition where an individual has an unhealthy relationship with food, which can be manifested by drastically limiting their calorie intake or extreme dieting, forced vomiting, compulsive exercise, and other behaviors.

Anorexia nervosa 

People with anorexia nervosa often experience feeling cold, constipation, and skin changes. During a medical evaluation, a provider might also discover muscle wasting (muscle loss), bone density loss, anemia, and low blood pressure. 

A person struggling with anorexia may also notice a layer of fine hair emerging on their body, called lanugo. Infertility can also be a result of anorexia.

People with anorexia typically have a distorted image of themselves and feel “fat” no matter how thin they become. 

Anorexia is serious because when a person doesn’t get sufficient nutrition for a prolonged period, their digestive, nervous, endocrine, and cardiovascular health all suffer. Sadly, self-starvation can even lead to death. Another tragic side effect of anorexia is that over one-quarter of people with it attempt suicide. 


Bulimia is a cycle of binging and purging, where people eat great quantities of food quickly and then force themselves to vomit. They may abuse diuretics and laxatives to purge as well. 

People with bulimia are overwhelmed with guilt and feel terrible about themselves after these episodes, which are nearly impossible to stop, no matter how many times they promise themselves they won’t repeat the behavior. 

Another eating disorder is binge eating disorder, where a person binge eats, but doesn’t engage in purging. 

An eating disorder can take over your life and severely threaten your health and well-being.

Eating disorders have exploded for males but are often undiscovered 

As we noted, the male population is experiencing eating disorders more than ever before. The American Journal of Men’s Health published a study that revealed unexpected findings: Approximately 10 million males are expected to suffer an eating disorder at some juncture in their lives. 

The course of eating disorders in men and boys is different than the desire for thinness. Since the ideal body standard is being “bulked up” and “ripped” for men, they’re often wanting to gain, rather than lose weight. That leads to the use of:

  • Steroids
  • Supplements
  • Consuming increased amounts of high-calorie foods

Alternatively, unhealthy weight loss can also be a concern for men if they participate in certain sports, like wrestling, where your weight class determines whether you participate. 

Furthermore, the body image ideals that flood social media cannot be ruled out as greatly affecting men and boys when it comes to eating disorders. The omnipresent images of superhero-shaped men have effects on men and boys similar to those of the non-stop photos of long and lanky models that women and girls see. In fact, the Anxiety & Depression of America (ADAA) reports that body dysmorphia impacts males and females equally

Since society still expects, to a large extent, that men maintain a less outwardly emotional demeanor than women, they’re less likely to talk about their body image or eating struggles or seek medical treatment. That contributes to the difficulty in diagnosing eating disorders in males. 

Diagnosing and treating eating disorders in males

Fortunately, the Clarity Psychiatric Care team has tools to offer men and boys who struggle with eating disorders. We offer a wide range of proven treatments, including individual psychotherapy and family and group therapy, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which emphasizes helping people transform how they think and react to challenges. 

We also offer nutritional counseling to help guide our clients toward healthy eating.

If you are the parent or friend of a boy or young man who may have an eating disorder, or you’re a man who suspects you have an eating disorder, call our Cherry Hill, New Jersey, office at 856-428-1260, or use our convenient online booking tool