What are the Effects of Eating Disorders on Adolescent Males

male athlete strong exercise

More attention is being paid to eating disorders in boys and young men than previously done. The pressures placed on young girls are now being similarly placed on young men through pop culture. The problem far extends beyond just a certain demographic as many young men are struggling with eating disorders. Learn more about the effects of eating disorders on adolescent males.


The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male but this may be a low figure. A more true figure may hover closer to 30 percent. It is a hidden sub-population which is a serious national health crisis. Even more, boys and men are risking their lives as eating disorders having the highest death rate of any psychological illness. Many in the medical profession still see anorexia as a girl’s disease making it difficult to break the barrier.


Billboards, trailers and more focus on the perfect abs, glutes and body type that is not ideal for most men or young boys. Many boys start out wanting to achieve perfection and spiral into eating disorders. The hyper-idealized male physique can be underscored when movies come out that demonstrate how an actor spent seven or eight hours a day pushing the body and building up muscle to look good in a certain role. For an individual with anorexia, it is difficult to achieve this goal and it leaves the individual feeling like a failure.

Weight Issues

One of the main problems with eating disorders in young men isn’t always based on food consumption it is focused on over exercising to the point of extreme weight loss. It can cause fingernails to turn brittle, sunken eyes and cheeks to appear and baggy clothes are worn to conceal the weight loss. When a man reaches zero body fat, the body cannot stay warm and it becomes a health risk. More notably, personality changes erupt and it becomes difficult to navigate around an individual who is having mood swings.

Healing the Inner World

A teen’s inside voice can be the most lethal when it comes to eating disorders. Vulnerable teens lead internal lives that have voices of a cruel dictator living inside. When an individual tries to say no to the eating disorder, the voice grows louder, begging the individual to try and navigate life with this voice saying it is never enough and the young man feels more compelled than ever to keep forging ahead with the eating disorder in spite of losing health, relationships and other things that matter.

A big part of recovery is learning to silence or ignore the voice. When an eating disorder is beat, it is possible to live a life that is more free of that voice beckoning a young man to do things that are harmful and focuses more on positive, healthy alternatives for the future.


Sustain Recovery provides support to adolescents who need residential treatment for addiction. Young adults who need short or long term stays are welcome to come and seek support for the journey to recovery.