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Redefining Eating Disorders as a “Human” Issue

While eating disorders are typically thought of as a female disease, statistics show otherwise. In fact, 25-40% of those with eating disorders are male. It is critical to change the stereotypes and stigma surrounding eating disorders to increase awareness and treatment rates among men.

The reasons for low diagnosis rates among males with eating disorders vary. Some believe men can face multiple stigmas for seeking help for a disorder believed to be feminine. Sometimes, assessment tests contain language geared to females which can also lead to fewer men being properly diagnosed.

Women are not the only ones who struggle with body image and pressures to look a particular way. Men face these issues daily. According to research, as many men want to change their weight as women. Much of male body dissatisfaction focuses on a desire for increased muscle mass. According to an AOL body image survey, 68% of college-aged men say they have too little muscle. Another study from 2012 reported that 90% of teenage boys exercised with the goal of “bulking up”.

Much of body dissatisfaction in men comes from athletics, especially those that require weight restrictions such as gymnastics, track, swimming, or wrestling. In fact, male wrestlers present with a high rate of eating disorders than the general male population. Coaches can play an important role in recognizing the warning signs of a potential eating disorder.

There are different kinds of symptoms to watch for in someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder. While some symptoms are seen in both males and females, some signs are most typically seen in men. Those can include:

  • Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting or muscle toning
  • Weight lifting when injured
  • Anxiety/stress over missing workouts
  • Muscular weakness
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Using anabolic steroids

If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, there are steps you can take to get help. Anonymous eating disorder screenings are available at These quick self-assessments will screen an individual for anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Taking a screening is an easy first step to receiving help and treatment information.

The goal of increasing awareness around men and eating disorders is to also increase treatment rates and decrease stigma. With the proper help, both women and men suffering from eating disorders can make a full recovery.