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A Look at Male Anorexia

written by: LotusSnow • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 12/4/2010

In our society, most people recognize and acknowledge the prevalence of anorexia in females, however very few realize that males too suffer from the same disorder. There is a lack of attention to this type of male eating disorder because male anorexia can be easily masked. Read on to learn more.

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    Symptoms of Anorexia in Men

    Eating disorders are typically thought of as a disorder that affects only teenage girls and young women. Research shows otherwise, there has been a steady increase in male anorexia. There are some similarities between the male and female versions of anorexia. Both have experience some level of emotional disorder and both can suffer from osteoporosis as a result of this disorder. However, there are some differences too, men tend to develop anorexia later in life as compared to women where the disorder normally develops during their teenage years. Studies also claim that men who suffer from anorexia often have a history of being obese before they develop and eating disorder. Below are some common symptoms of male anorexia:

    • Low self-esteem and poor body image
    • Decreased in sexual desire, anxiety surrounding sexual activity
    • Exercise compulsively and excessively, preoccupied with body mass index, muscles, etc
    • Depressed, isolated, lonely
    • Expressed an intense fear of weight gain although clearly underweight. Perform food rituals
    • Unrealistic and perfectionist behaviors, need for control
    • Electrolyte disturbances and heart arrhythmia
    • Have a difficult time expressing feeling and often isolates oneself
    • Thinning hair or hair loss, lanugo
    • Denies the seriousness of their current low body weight
    • Demonstrate Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
    • Have a hard time eating around others and will lie about eating
    • Experience muscle weakness and fatigue
    • Blood pressure and body temperature is low
    • Quite possibly experiencing sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
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    Possible Causes of Male Anorexia

    • Genetics – Probability of you developing anorexia increases significantly if one of your family members has struggled with this eating disorder. Research has also shown that certain personality types are more prone to develop eating disorders than others. An example would be people who are perfectionist. Studies report that perfectionism is the leading cause of male anorexia. It seems that characteristics of a perfectionist such as desire to be right, accepted, and in control, are the primary causes of male anorexia. These perfectionists tend to hold the erroneous belief that being thin, or perfect, will lead to happiness. Other research also indicates that males with anorexia tend to have dependent and avoidance personalities. Their levels of anxiety are high, they are obsessive-compulsive and may also suffer from depression
    • Brain Activity – Research shows that another possible explanation for male anorexia is their brain’s dopamine receptors, which regulates pleasure. It is believed that when an anorexic male under eats, the brain dispenses feelings of euphoria. Therefore, in this manner, food is frequently used as a type of antidepressant to relieve anxiousness.
    • Family – The presence of family issues can be an emotional factor, which contributes to the development of anorexia in males. Feelings of being misunderstood and of abandonment is often felt by males with eating disorders as well as reports of feeling smothered by their families. In families where there is an overemphasis on physical appearance, the occurrence of male anorexia is also fairly high. Males who grow up in these kinds of family learn very early on to keep their fears, doubts, anxieties and imperfections hidden so as not to be ridiculed by other family members.
    • Society – Another possible cause of male anorexia is also cultural pressures. Overweight males are often made fun of on television, they are also portrayed of as “losers” who are unable to “get the girl” or losers who are laughed at and found undesirable by girls. Ads everywhere sends a message that being thin is being happy, we seldom see overweight male models, even the mannequins displayed in departmental stores have “6 pack” sometimes and of course they are the “perfect proportion”. Studies have shown body image concerns to be one of the strongest variables in predicting eating disorders in males, even stronger than family variables.
    • Athletic Activity – Certain types of athletic activities or sports that necessitates weight restrictions such as dancing, swimming, running, rowing, and gymnastics appear to put males at risk for developing eating disorders.
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    References

    1. Male Anorexia http://maleanorexia.net/
    2. Male Anorexia http://quickcare.org/misc/male-anorexia.html
    3. Eating Disorder in Boys and men http://www.eatingdisordershelpguide.com/males-boys.html
    4. Males and Eating Disorder http://www.edreferral.com/males_eating_disorders.htm