Eating Disorders are complex conditions characterised by significant and persistent disturbances in eating behaviours accompanied by distressing thoughts and emotions. These conditions can profoundly affect physical, psychological, and social well-being. The various forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. These disorders pose serious threats to overall health and functioning, impacting individuals on multiple levels.

While it is commonly assumed that eating disorders affect only women, men are also at risk of being diagnosed with them. Almost one in three people suffering from an eating disorder is male, making it quite a significant number. It is also important to note that even though men and women go through the same symptoms of eating disorders, they impact both genders in different ways.

Gender Differences In Eating Disorders

There are differences in how eating disorders manifest in men and women. They are:

  • Types of Disorders

The symptoms of eating disorders are likely to be the same among males and females, with no major differences; however, the types of eating disorders in both genders may differ. While women are more likely to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia, research suggests that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) or binge eating is a common behaviour among men. Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by chronic and compulsive overeating 

  • Body Image Issues

Body image issues are common in both males and females with eating disorders, but how these issues manifest is vastly different. While females are often pressured to maintain thin bodies, men may be under pressure to maintain more muscular bodies. Research conducted in 2015 suggests that men concerned with their physical appearance will likely indulge in harmful dietary behaviours. Over time, men’s preoccupation with their physical appearance can lead to muscular dysmorphia, a symptom of body dysmorphia. People with muscular dysmorphia are likely to perceive their bodies as smaller or weaker than they are, leading to a distorted body image.

  • Triggers

The triggers and onset of eating disorders can also differ based on gender. Men may be more prone to developing eating disorders if they are from sports or fitness-related fields. Research suggests that male athletes are more likely to suffer from muscular dysmorphia. In contrast, societal expectations related to appearance and the media’s portrayal of ideal bodies may play a more important role in the development of eating disorders in females.

  • Treatment- Seeking

The number of women and men seeking treatment for eating disorders differs vastly. Research suggests that men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders due to feelings of embarrassment, as eating disorders are typically associated with women. In contrast, women are more open to seeking treatment for eating-related difficulties. 

Recent research also suggests that men are likely to improve quickly as compared to women in the treatment of eating disorders. However, further studies are necessary to validate these findings.

  • Comorbidity

A study conducted in 2010 suggests that men with eating disorders are likely to struggle with alcoholism, while women with eating disorders are more likely to struggle with major depression


The symptoms of eating disorders are similar in men and women; however, their impact differs greatly. Recognizing the differences between male and female eating disorders is crucial for making the correct diagnosis and providing appropriate support. Irrespective of gender, eating disorders are a major concern, but there are treatments to manage and overcome them.


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Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin