Most people think of women, especially young women and teens, when they hear about Anorexia Nervosa. The reason for this is sound, since teen girls and young women tend to be under a lot more pressure than teen boys and young men when it comes to being and looking thin.
Peer, media, and societal pressures aside, however, Anorexia can, and does, affect males also, although admittedly in smaller numbers. Males under the age of 14 account for about five percent to ten percent of diagnosed Anorexia Nervosa cases, and nineteen percent to thirty percent of diagnosed cases are older male teens.
Despite the fact that Anorexia Nervosa is less common in males, the symptoms and causes of the disorder when it does present itself appear to be the same for both sexes. This would be pressure from outside influences, although with males it may manifest itself more in over-exercising or extreme muscle building without consideration for proper nutrition and weight maintenance.
One of the problems that males with Anorexia Nervosa face is that their condition may not be as readily recognized as it is in females.
Since many doctors are trained to look for signs of this condition in females, a male with this condition might be diagnosed with something else, or might be given unnecessary tests to search for other causes for the extreme weight loss or malnutrition.
This can have negative connotations for a male with Anorexia Nervosa, as it is a serious condition that must be treated as quickly as possible with therapy and constant medical supervision.
Males with Anorexia Nervosa may also be less forthcoming with answers when asked about their eating and exercise habits, as they may be ashamed of having what is considered a “female” disorder.
Both parents and doctors of male teens should be open to the possibility of Anorexia when they notice extreme weight loss and obviously changed eating habits, so that the condition can be diagnosed and treatment can be started as early as possible.
Anorexia Nervosa is caused by underlying emotional problems, which the young male may try to deal with by focusing on his weight.
The young male sees being able to “control” his food intake and his weight as proof that he is in control of his entire life, which is far from the truth.
Peer pressures, school pressures, and more severe anxiety-producing events such as physical or sexual abuse in childhood can become more than a young male can deal with, and his anxiety can manifest itself in the form of Anorexia Nervosa.