Any man could develop these warning signs, and when they appear, any man who has them should be encouraged to get help. But there are some men who have a higher risk of developing anorexia, when compared to other groups of men. Families of men like this might need to be a little more aware of anorexia habits, so they can step in when those habits appear.
Men who identify as gay have traditionally been associated with the development of anorexia. NEDA reports that among those with eating disorders, 42 percent identify as gay. Some say that gay men are overrepresented in studies of eating disorders, as there is an awareness in the gay community of disordered eating behaviors. That awareness could lead more gay men to enter treatment. So researchers might think that being gay is a risk factor for anorexia when being gay is simply a risk factor for getting treatment for anorexia.
But regardless, there are some aspects of gay male culture that could boost a man’s risk for anorexia. For example, the fetishized gay male body is traditionally thinner and leaner than the male body revered in straight culture. Gay men may come to believe that they must be on the lean side in order to attract other gay men, and they may resort to unhealthy behaviors to achieve that body size.
Also, some men with erotic feelings toward other men may not be quite ready to identify as gay, and they may not be ready to act upon their feelings. A restrictive diet sparked by anorexia can impact a man’s hormone levels, and that can make him feel less sexual as a whole. Some men with feelings for other men use their diets as a way to keep their feelings from rising to the surface.
Clearly, there are risk factors associated with being male and gay. In addition, there are other risk factors that make certain men more likely to develop eating disorders.
For example, some men face severe abuse early in life. They may be taunted and teased about weight when they were very young boys, or they may have been targets of sexual abuse or sexual harassment early in life. These abusive incidents can result in a feeling of lifelong victimization and a loss of control. Anorexia can spring from those roots. Boys and men who change their diets might feel as though they are in control of how others perceive them, maybe for the first time, and that power of anorexia may become a little addictive. Changing body shape or size can also make a man feel as though he isn’t subject to the abuse he felt when he was thicker, and that can be empowering, too.
NEDA also reports that participation in some types of sports could result in the development of male anorexia.
These types of athletes could be at risk:
All of these sports require some element of weight restriction, NEDA says, and some men become intoxicated with the feelings weight loss can bring about. They may initiate the behavior due to the demands of the sport, but they may keep up with the behavior due to the changes anorexia can bring in the brain.