Anorexia in men linked to excessive exercise

Although the eating disorder anorexia is usually associated with women, recent research from Canada has estimated that around 10 per cent of sufferers may be male – and that many of these place disproportionate emphasis on muscularity.

Lead study reviewer Dominique Meilleur, an associate professor of psychology who studies adolescence and eating disorders at the University of Montreal, said; ‘We know that anorexia does touch more women, but even though many parents, and even medical professionals, don't realise it, it's also among boys and men. The problem is that the subject hasn't been studied enough among men, so we don't even know if the symptoms we use to measure for anorexia are appropriate for men, because they are mainly developed for women.’

After reviewing 24 studies into the condition, spanning two decades, the researchers found that males with the condition had a tendency to exercise excessively and focus on muscle gain, whereas females place greater emphasis on controlling their food consumption (often to the point of rejection).
Examination of personal data revealed links between the condition and sexual preference in males, with a higher percentage of men than women with anorexia being gay. Other factors, such as depression, substance abuse and obsessive disorders were also linked to anorexia in a proportion of cases (where data had been collected).

Discussing the causes and potential treatment of anorexia in males, Meilleur said. "We need to explore the question of sexuality and muscularity. Because with women, at least, becoming thinner and thinner is the goal they're working towards. With men it's a paradox, because the thinner they become the less muscle they have – so they don't get to their goal… … there is more going on here than we can see so far’.

Source: Neuropsychiatry of Childhood and Adolescence