Men Suffer From Anorexia, Too

When we hear about the latest female model or actress who has battled anorexia nervosa, it serves to reinforce the notion that anorexia is a "female" disease. And while it's true that the overwhelming percentage of anorexia sufferers are girls and women, there exists a significant number of men and boys who have the condition as well-between five and 15 percent of all people who suffer from anorexia, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

What is anorexia nervosa? Far from simply being "on a diet," people who have anorexia suffer from a clinical mental disorder that causes them to become preoccupied with losing weight. They typically hit body weights well below what would be considered healthy. Anorexics are extremely afraid of gaining weight and see themselves as far bigger than they really are. No matter how thin they get, they are not satisfied with the way they look. Women and girls are notoriously self-critical in the face of ever-thinner movie stars, but men and boys can fall prey to this condition also-wanting a perfect body physique is not solely a female preoccupation.

How do you know if a male in your life has anorexia or is just trying to stay slim? There are some definite tip-offs to anorexia. Keep your eyes out for the following:

Dramatic weight loss. Being 15 percent or more below a healthy body weight is a clear signal that something's amiss.

An extremely restricted diet. Anorexics may consume only a few hundred calories a day, or eat just a handful of the same foods. They may have food rituals or refuse to eat with others.

A preoccupation with exercise. Along with severe calorie restriction, anorexics may lose weight by exercising obsessively.

Expressions of self-disgust. Anorexics are never happy with the way they look. They may appear skeletal and yet still talk about how fat they are.

Social isolation. Anorexics sometimes withdraw from others. They may appear depressed.

Physical changes. Due to the dramatic weight loss that's a hallmark of the disease, anorexia can give rise to a host of physical problems including heart-rhythm disturbances, tingling in the extremities, exhaustion, low blood pressure and pulse, unsteady balance, thinning hair or hair loss, and downy hair growth on the body.

If a man or boy you know has anorexia nervosa, it's imperative that he gets professional help. Anorexia has a high mortality rate if left untreated. You can find information on treatment programs from a pediatrician or any other physician. Hospitals are another good place to get help. Don't hang back out of embarrassment-stepping up can mean the difference between life and death.


National Eating Disorders Association,