Eating Disorders Often Undiagnosed In Boys And Men

It may surprise you that more boys and men are diagnosed with Eating Disorders than girls and women? Part of the reason for not reaching out is the stigma around Mental Health support and the lack of education about the disorder.

Eating Disorders are complex and treatment directed toward males can be limited. Helping someone overcome an Eating Disorder requires patience, therapy, or a stay at an in-house treatment center. I’ve only read a couple of books on Eating Disorders and will say it’s a very long road of relapses to reach recovery.

Due to their own stigma parents and family often overlook the early warning signs and do not reach out for help until it’s a crisis.


In the United States alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives. But due in large part to cultural bias, they are much less likely to seek treatment for their eating disorder. The good news is that once a man finds help, they show similar responses to treatment as women. Several factors lead to men and boys being under- and undiagnosed for an eating disorder. Men can face a double stigma, for having a disorder characterized as feminine or gay and for seeking psychological help. Additionally, assessment tests with language geared to women and girls have led to misconceptions about the nature of disordered eating in men according to the National Eating Disorder Association.


Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms

  • In general, behaviors and attitudes that indicate that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, carbohydrates, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Food rituals (e.g. eats only a particular food or food group [e.g. condiments], excessive chewing, doesn’t allow foods to touch)
  • Skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals
  • Any new practices with food or fad diets, including cutting out entire food groups (no sugar, no carbs, no dairy, vegetarianism/veganism)
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body size and shape
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws in appearance
  • Extreme mood swings

Physical Symptoms

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Menstrual irregularities — missing periods or only having a period while on hormonal contraceptives (this is not considered a “true” period)
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Abnormal laboratory findings (anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels, low potassium, low white and red blood cell counts)
  • Dizziness, especially upon standing
  • Fainting/syncope
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Sleep problems
  • Cuts and calluses across the top of finger joints (a result of inducing vomiting)
  • Dental problems, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity
  • Dry skin and hair, and brittle nails
  • Swelling around area of salivary glands
  • Fine hair on body (lanugo)
  • Cavities, or discoloration of teeth, from vomiting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Yellow skin (in context of eating large amounts of carrots)
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet or swelling of feet
  • Poor wound healing
  • Impaired immune functioning

The list of symptoms is long because it’s all-encompassing.

I encourage you to visit National Eating Disorder Association for a breakdown of the seven types of Eating Disorders and other behavioral and food concerns. Finding the underlying causes requires a trained professional in the right setting, an individual plan, and most importantly support from family and friends.

When looking for the right professional, talk with them about their approach and experience before introducing them to the patient. Finding the right approach may require research and time. It’s important to do this on the front end if possible. An approved method and training will make all the difference on the road to recovery. Disruptions during treatment can interfere with the recovery process making the patient resistant to continued treatment.



National Eating Disorder Org.

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