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Can Males Have An Eating Disorder?

Lindy L. Weaver, PhD, OTR/L, Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L

July 7, 2022

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Question

Can males have an eating disorder?

Answer

That is an excellent question. I quoted one study that only mentioned young girls, but it's important to note that eating disorders impact boys and men across the board. Statistics show that eating disorders are lower in males than females; however, some of these differences may be explained by a stigma that males don't have eating disorders. This is not unlike some of the stereotypes that come along with other mental health diagnoses, where young men or boys Eating disorders may not be recognized in the same way in males and females and may be underreported. I worked with a group of kids that had a few boys. Even the young girls experiencing intensive eating disorder symptoms had stigma towards the boys in the group. "My eating disorder presents this way, but you probably want to be more muscular, not thin." The young boy replied, "No, my disorder sounds very similar to yours." The girls were surprised as they thought the boys would experience it differently than they would. This perception was fascinating to me.

Eating disorders affect every gender, age, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, et cetera. It doesn't discriminate, but I think that was one of the significant issues that have come up in my practice. There's also some stigma around this prototype of what a particular body would look like if it were experiencing a specific eating disorder. For example, if a person's body isn't overly thin, they must not have anorexia. Conversely, someone with a larger body or higher weight is thought to have an eating disorder. In either instance, this is not necessarily true. 


lindy l weaver

Lindy L. Weaver, PhD, OTR/L

Dr. Weaver has worked as an occupational therapist for over 12 years and has extensive experience in pediatric and adolescent mental health. Her clinical, educational, and research endeavors are focused on improving and providing evidence-informed care that maximizes protective factors and facilitates personal growth among young people and their families.


dennis cleary

Dennis Cleary, MS, OTD, OTR/L

Dr. Dennis Cleary has over 25 years of experience as an occupational therapist.  Dennis’ clinical practice has been primarily with children and adults with intellectual disabilities to encourage their full participation in all aspects of life at home, work, and in the community. He has had faculty positions at The Ohio State University and Indiana University. As a researcher, he has been on teams that have received over seven million dollars in grants from state and federal agencies, including a National Institutes of Health multisite trial of the Vocational Fit Assessment, an age-appropriate transition assessment, which he co-created. He has numerous publications and national and international presentations. Dennis is passionate about increasing the role of Occupational Therapy in transition-age service with the goal of improving outcomes and quality of life for all. 

 


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