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Men with Anorexia: Symptoms, signs and treatment help

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous eating disorder that impacts all facets of mental, emotional, and physical health. While this condition is most often associated with young, white women, the reality is that AN impacts people of all ages, genders, and races.

It's estimated that 1 in 4 cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (BN) present in males.1 But the long-held views on who is impacted by these conditions and a lack of scientific research that could help broaden those views can make male eating disorder symptoms seem almost invisible.

Understanding the truth of the condition and the symptoms of anorexia in males can help make a difference in spotting people who may be struggling and ensuring they find the help they need to overcome this illness.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
March 27, 2024
Male anorexia
In this article

Why male anorexia took so long to be recognized

Despite researchers long documenting the effects of anorexia nervosa, it took nearly a century for the idea of male eating disorders to be clinically recognized.1

Lack of menstrual period
Lack of research
Difficulty in identification

Signs of anorexia in males

While signs and symptoms are often considered synonyms, the two have slightly different medical meanings. Signs of a condition like anorexia nervosa include physical issues that can be measured or outwardly observed.

Some specific signs and risk factors that are exclusive to men with anorexia include:2,3

  • Weight history: Many men with eating disorders have a history of being mildly or moderately obese. The risk is especially high for those who experienced obesity in childhood.
  • Preferred compensatory behaviors: While men with AN exhibit restrictive dieting behavior, they are more likely than women to utilize excessive exercise as a way to control weight.

Other common signs of anorexia in men include:4

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Failure to grow to the expected size
  • Lowered testosterone levels
  • Excessive dieting behavior (counting calories, skipping meals, fasting, etc.)
  • Rituals or strict rules around eating

Symptoms of anorexia in males

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa or other medical issues are experiences that can only be felt by the person going through the condition. They may manifest as behaviors, as opposed to medical readings, that can be determined through testing.

Some symptoms of anorexia in males include:1,3,4

  • Body ideal: While a preoccupation with body image is common in most people with AN, males tend to fixate on attaining a lean, muscular build.
  • Muscle dysmorphia: A specific type of body dysmorphic disorder, this condition—where people obsess over weight gain in the form of muscle—is especially common in males with anorexia and other eating disorders.
  • Co-occurring conditions: Men with anorexia frequently experience co-occurring depression, substance use disorder, and anxiety.

Other common symptoms of anorexia in males include:4

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Secretive behavior around eating

Treatment for men with anorexia nervosa

Research that exclusively focuses on male anorexia and other male experiences of eating disorders is lacking, including studies that look at possible treatment options for men.

Still, research suggests that the same type of treatment that's helpful for women with these mental health disorders can be successfully applied to men.2 Generally, that consists of a multidisciplinary approach, which may involve:

Still, all-male therapy groups are recommended for men going through this experience to help minimize the feelings of stigma around opening up for help and help encourage other males with anorexia and other eating disorders to be more forthcoming about their experiences.2

Find out how remote treatment can help you
Our results

It's also been suggested to focus on issues and risk factors that are more likely to affect men with anorexia, including:2 

Treatment barriers for male anorexia

Several issues can make it more difficult for men with anorexia to find appropriate eating disorder treatment.

The long-held association between disordered eating behaviors and females is one of the primary barriers to treatment for men with anorexia nervosa.

Nearly all people who struggle with eating disorders combat feelings of guilt, shame, and denial, but this effect may be more powerful on men due to the stigmatization of males with eating disorders, causing them to be less likely to seek treatment.1

Screening for these mental disorders in men may also present difficulties, as a majority of research has been conducted on the female experience.1

Sadly, these delays in treatment can have severe consequences on someone's health, with nearly 50% of all men seeking treatment for eating disorders requiring immediate hospitalization.1

Getting help at Within

At Within Health, we understand that eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder don't discriminate based on gender, race, or age. And we strive to extend care to all those who need it.

Our program involves a multidisciplinary approach, with a team of experts who can help build a treatment program tailored to your specific history and needs, whatever they may be. And you'll never have to leave home to follow this program, thanks to our interactive app, website, and options for sending food and medical equipment through the mail to ensure you can follow each step happily and proactively.

Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous condition, and it can feel impossible to overcome. But with Within Health, you're never alone, and help is always available.

Get help today

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Gorrell, S., & Murray, S. B. (2019). Eating Disorders in Males. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 28(4), 641–651.
  2. Strother, E., Lemberg, R., Stanford, S. C., & Turberville, D. (2012). Eating disorders in men: underdiagnosed, undertreated, and misunderstood. Eating Disorders, 20(5), 346–355.
  3. Men & Eating Disorders. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed September 2023.
  4. Eating Disorders and Males. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Accessed September 2023.


Do males suffer from anorexia?

Yes. Anorexia nervosa impacts people of all gender identifications, sexualities, ethnicities, and ages.

How many men have anorexia?

Recognizing the impact of eating disorders on biological men is still relatively new in the medical world, with many statistics still catching up to reality. Still, it's estimated that as many as 25% of AN and BN cases present in men.1

Are men less likely to seek treatment for anorexia?

It's impossible to tell for sure, as those who don't seek treatment can not be counted among official statistics. But the additional stigma around men with eating disorders—and the fact that more men need immediate hospitalization when they do seek out treatment—suggest that men are less likely to seek out treatment for anorexia nervosa.1

Where can men find treatment for anorexia?

There are many places for men to find eating disorder treatment. While some treatment programs—especially inpatient facilities—may be gender-specific, a vast majority accept people of all genders.

Nearly anywhere a woman can find eating disorder treatment is a place a man can also seek out help. You can ask your primary care physician or therapist or look online for more specific options.

Further reading

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Men with Anorexia: Symptoms, signs and treatment help

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Further reading

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