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What are the Signs of Anorexia in Males?

By Matt Brady
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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The signs of anorexia in males closely mirror those in women. Anorexic males are often dangerously underweight, have poor eating habits, and exercise excessively. These symptoms tend to derive from the goal of attaining a perfect, muscular physique—a goal that's often fueled by depression and low self-esteem. In severe cases, males may develop anemia, suicidal tendencies, and other life-threatening complications.

Overexercising is one of the hallmark signs of anorexia in males. Exercising for multiple hours a day, as much as into the double digits, is not uncommon. Friends and family may chalk up the exercise to the healthy habits of an extremely fit individual, but what's really being displayed is a severe mental disorder. Anorexic males exercise compulsively due to an insatiable desire to trim fat and look fit.

Poor eating habits are another classic sign of anorexia in males. Aside from excessive exercise, starving is the classic method that anorexic people use to lose weight. Like women, anorexic males may also resort to bulimic behavior, in which a person privately throws up food in an effort to limit caloric intake while appearing to eat normally around others.

Behavioral changes are another sign of anorexia. Males with anorexia are often depressed and do not think highly of themselves. Such poor self-esteem can originate from emotional abuse, either at home or from social circles. When treating male anorexia, it's important to get at the root of the emotional problem to completely understand what's driving anorexic behavior.

Anorexia in males is considered by many to be harder to detect. This probably isn't so much because anorexic men appear less thin or that their eating and exercise habits appear less erratic, but because society tends to think of anorexia as a female-specific condition. Anorexia may also be hard to spot with an individual who's heavily involved in sports; sports make it easier for people to justify overexercise and poor eating habits.

Some believe that the psychology of anorexia in males is somewhat different. Males may be more driven by a culture that glorifies lean and muscular body types, whereas females may be driven by a culture that equates thinness with beauty. Nevertheless, the most basic, underlying cause of anorexia—a lack of self-esteem and a feeling that one isn't desirable or perfect—is gender-neutral. Such feelings may not only lead to poor exercising and eating habits, they may also lead to severe depression and even suicidal tendencies.

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