Anorexia Nervosa in Males

Anorexia nervosa is a severe, life-threatening disorder in which the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight, and exhibits a significant distortion in the perception of the shape or size of his body, as well as dissatisfaction with his body shape and size.

Behavioral Characteristics:

  • Excessive dieting, fasting, restricted diet
  • Food rituals
  • Preoccupation with body building, weight lifting, or muscle toning •
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Difficulty eating with others, lying about eating
  • Frequently weighing self
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Focus on certain body parts; e.g., buttocks, thighs, stomach
  • Disgust with body size or shape
  • Distortion of body size; i.e., feels fat even though others tell him he is already very thin

Emotional and Mental Characteristics:

  • Intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Strong need to be in control
  • Rigid, inflexible thinking, “all or nothing”
  • Decreased interest in sex or fears around sex
  • Possible conflict over gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Low sense of self worth — uses weight as a measure of worth
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Perfectionistic — strives to be the neatest, thinnest, smartest, etc.
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Irritability, denial — believes others are overreacting to his low weight or caloric restriction
  • Insomnia

Physical Characteristics:

  • Low body weight (15% or more below what is expected for age, height, activity level)
  • Lack of energy, fatigue
  • Muscular weakness
  • Decreased balance, unsteady gait
  • Lowered body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Lanugo (downy growth of body hair)
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Lowered testosterone levels

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