Thalpos-Mental Health

Males With Eating Disorders

  • Published on:
Males with Eating Disorders?

By the Psychologist of "Thalpos Attica" Maria Makridaki

Food intake is a vital need and a multisensory pleasure for us humans. However, our body image can define our relationship with food.

The predisposing, maintaining and perpetuating factors associated with eating disorders can be biological, psychological and environmental. Anorexia Nervosa, (with voluntary food deprivation as a main feature) Bulimia Nervosa (with profuse food consumption and purging behaviors as a main feature) and Binge-Eating disorder are closely associated with negative thoughts and negative emotions as far as body weight, food and body image are concerned.

Current literature is saturated with plentiful explanations, causes, treatment and preventions of eating disorders. However, in spite of generous articles and books in reference to this topic, little mention are ever made to males.

The first report of an eating disorder in a male was published in 1689 by Dr. Richard Morton. He described a case of "nervous consumption" in a 16-year-old son of a minister and what he prescribed was a resting cure of horseback riding and abstention from studies (Carlatetal., 1997). More than 300 years later, the information available on eating disorders in males remains limited to sporadic reports of incidents and some small clinical case studies.

However, eating disorders are not uncommon in men. The Hudson et al. (2007) report that the male population represents 25% of all people with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, and 36% of all people with binge eating disorder. However, the misconception that people with eating disorders are only women remains.

When men seek help, they may deal with disbelief by health professionals. Copperman’s survey (2000) showed that the lack of recognition at the primary level of care meant that in some cases, men had received treatment at a later stage of their disorder than women, when the disorder had already established difficult to change behavioral patterns.

A study conducted by Smolak & Striegel - Moore (2004) showed that, compared to women, men experienced less pressure to engage in "typical" compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, or laxative use if overeating and greater tendency to use compulsive exercise rather than purging for weight control (as cited in Weltzin et al.,2005).

This information is important for understanding potential differences in the manifestation of the problem. In addition, exercise and athletic competition, especially sports that require low body fat or extremes of weight loss, are a risk for developing exercise dependence and eating disorders in men (Hausenblas & Downs, 2002).

Consequently, beyond the broader need to raise awareness on a primary health care level, an information and awareness campaign from mental health service providers to men involved in these activities and sports could be seen as a very useful prevention tool.


  • Carlat, D.J., Camargo Jr, C.A., καιHerzog, D.B. (1997). Eating Disorders in Males: A Report of 135 Patients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154 (8), 1127-1132.
  • Copperman, J. (2000). Eating Disorders in the United Kingdom: A Review of the Provision of Health Care Services for Men with Eating Disorders. Norwich: Eating Disorders Association.
  • Hausenblas, H.A. και Downs, D.S. (2002). Relationship among sex, imagery, and exercise dependence symptoms, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16
  • Hudson, J. Hiripi, E. Pope, H. & Kessler, R. (2007) “The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the national comorbidity survey replication.” Biological Psychiatry, 61, 348–358.
  • Weltzin,T.E., Weisensel, N., Franczyk, D., Burnett, K., Klitz,C. and Bean, P. (2005). Eating Disorders in Men: update. The Journal of Men’s Health and Gender. 2 (2), 186-193.

Useful link: