Manorexia: Causes & Signs of Anorexia in Men

Manorexia is not an official medical term, but it is commonly used in the media to define anorexia in men.

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is characterized by distortions in body image, an obsession with weight, and significant food and/or calorie deprivation. Someone with anorexia often has serious food restriction.

Man hiking

Men with anorexia typically feel that they are overweight, even if they are significantly underweight. They will refuse to maintain a healthy weight for their age, sex, and height. 

They are often attempting to mimic a specific masculine body type that they deem ideal. Anorexia is a serious mental illness that takes a huge toll on a person physically and mentally.

How Common Is Anorexia in Men?

Anorexia can impact people of all genders, races, and ages. Although it is more common in young females, men can still have anorexia. Men can suffer from body image issues, disordered eating habits, and obsession with losing weight or attempting to fit a specific body type.

Approximately 20% of those who have anorexia are men. Around 10 million men in the United States alone will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime. 

Anorexia in men is commonly missed, however. The stigma surrounding this disorder for males is prevalent. 

What Causes Men to Become Anorexic?

Men with anorexia are often striving to hit a masculine ideal body type, such as being lean and muscular. Society and media often portray this version of the male physique as the most desirable. Men can go to drastic measures to try and attain this perceived version of male masculinity and “perfection.”

Anorexia in men can be caused by a range of different, and often overlapping, factors, such as:

  • Genetics: Anorexia commonly runs in families and is a heritable condition.
  • Biological aspects: Dysregulation in brain chemistry or circuitry can contribute to the onset of mental health disorders like anorexia.
  • Environmental factors: Social pressures, high levels of stress, and sports that expect a specific body type or weight (like wrestling, bodybuilding, swimming, gymnastics, and dance) can all influence the onset of anorexia.

Trauma and Triggers

Unhappy man looking at his phone

Eating disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated in men. They can also recur later in life as a result of trauma or triggers, such as:

  • Divorce
  • An empty nest
  • Adjusting to retirement
  • Stress caused by unemployment
  • Feelings of inadequacy or diminished power (often comes with aging)

Just as eating disorders are commonly missed in men, sexual abuse and trauma are often underreported and therefore not dealt with either. Studies show that nearly a third of men with an eating disorder have a history of sexual abuse. 

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation can be a factor in the onset of anorexia, as gay men are often trying to attain an ideal “thin” body type. Since a gay lifestyle goes against the mainstream, some gay men have high levels of shame, and controlling exercise and eating can be a way of exerting control over something in their life. 

Manorexia can be the result of a combination of these factors.

What Are the Signs of Manorexia?

There are a variety of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes and signs to watch for that can indicate anorexia. While many of these are the same regardless of gender, some are different for men than they are for women. 

For example, while restricting food and counting calories are common for both women and men with anorexia, men are more likely to exercise excessively and use steroids. Men are also more likely to take a lot of supplements and try any diet trend that is designed to cut fat and build muscle. 

Anorexia in men can often start with disordered eating and a lot of time in the gym to achieve a specific masculine body type. Then, it can develop into an eating disorder.

Signs of anorexia include:

  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Skipping meals
  • Significant food or calorie restrictions
  • Refusing to eat in front of others
  • Dehydration
  • Significant weight loss
  • Bloating, constipation, and stomach cramps
  • Trouble regulating body temperature 
  • Rigid diet and exercise routines
  • Low levels of testosterone and reduced sex drive
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Mental confusion
  • Talking a lot about weight, body image, and food 

How to Treat Men for Anorexia

Anorexia is a serious mental health disorder that requires professional treatment as soon as possible. Treatment often begins with medical management to address potentially life-threatening physical complications related to deprivation and starvation. 

Initially, the goal is to achieve a healthy weight and combat immediate physical complications, such as dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. Therapeutic and supportive measures are needed to manage the behavioral and emotional factors leading to disordered eating, distorted body image, and low self-esteem.

Gender-Sensitive Approach

A gender-sensitive approach is vital for treating men with anorexia to focus on specific issues and considerations for males. Men with anorexia, for example, often suffer from low levels of testosterone, and testosterone supplementation can often be necessary during treatment. 

Similarly, it can be difficult for a man to feel comfortable in a treatment setting made up of mostly females. This can be intimidating and not as specific to the considerations of men with anorexia. 

Males will often have different symptoms and triggers. It is important that treatment programs cater to this and help men to develop healthy habits and coping strategies.

Support groups made up of other men can be beneficial during treatment and recovery. These groups allow men to connect with peers who can understand, empathize, and support each other.


  1. Eating Disorders in Males. (November 2021). National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).
  2. Sangha, S., Oliffe, J.L., Kelly, M.T., McCuaig, F. (2019). Eating Disorders in Males: How Primary Care Providers Can Improve Recognition, Diagnosis, and Treatment. American Journal on Men’s Health, 13(3).
  3. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). (2022). Eating Disorders in Men & Boys.
  4. Basset, M. (October 2013). Eating Disorders in Older Men – Research Indicates Prevalence Might be on the Rise. Today’s Dietician.
  5. Strother, E., Lemberg, R., Stanford, S.C., Turberville, D. (October 2012). Eating Disorders in Men: Underdiagnosed, Undertreated, and Misunderstood. Eating Disorders, 20(5), 346-55.
  6. Bell, K., Rieger, E., Hirsch, J.K. (2019). Eating Disorder Symptoms and Proneness in Gay Men, Lesbian Women, and Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults: Comparative Levels and a Proposed Mediational Model. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:2692.
  7. Culbert, K.M., Shope, M.M., Sisk, C.L., Klump, K.L. (2020). Low Testosterone Is Associated With Dysregulated Eating Symptoms in Young Adult Men. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 53, 1469-1479.
  8. Collier, R. (2013). Treatment challenges for men with eating disorders. CMAJ JAMC, 185(3):E137-8.

Last Update | 09 - 27 - 2022

Medical Disclaimer

Any information provided on the is for educational purposes only. The information on this site should not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with a medical professional if you are seeking medical advice, a diagnosis or any treatment solutions. is not liable for any issues associated with acting upon any information on this site.