What You Need To Know About Bulimia In Men

When you think about eating disorders, you might think of women. While it's true that the ratio of women to men with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia is historically about 10 to 1, men are susceptible to disordered eating, too (via Eating Disorder Hope). 

Bulimia nervosa, often referred to as bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of consuming abnormally large amounts of food, called binging, and then purging (via Mayo Clinic). The binge eating may be done in secret, which is then followed by severe self-judgment and efforts to rid oneself of the calories. Purging is done by inducing vomiting, taking laxatives, misusing weight loss supplements or diuretics, or other methods.

Signs that you may have bulimia include a preoccupation with your body shape and weight, fear of gaining weight, repeated episodes of binging, feeling out of control while binging, forcing yourself to vomit or exercise excessively, fasting or restricting foods, using dietary supplements to the extreme in order to lose weight, or using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after a meal. Bulimia typically involves purging at least once a week for a minimum of three months, and its severity depends on frequency.

Bulimia often begins during adolescence, and a person is more likely to develop it if they have a family member with an eating disorder, physical illness, or another mental health issue (via Johns Hopkins Medicine).

Bulimia can happen to anyone

Bulimia is more common in girls and women, but boys and men experience it too, and often go undiagnosed or undertreated and misunderstood, according to Eating Disorder Hope.

Bulimia is about more than purging — it's also about self-image (via Mayo Clinic). Those with the disorder often have excessively negative body image and sometimes don't even want to eat in front of others. Men with bulimia have a distorted view of their bodies and are dissatisfied with their appearance, often regarding their amount of muscle, notes Eating Disorder Hope. While a majority of women with bulimia engage in weight loss to pursue thinness, about half of men with bulimia are motivated to become more muscular.

Many men don't speak out or seek treatment, not wanting to appear weak or vulnerable, but it's projected that 10 million men will experience an eating disorder at some point (via Men's Health).  As of 2018, the number of men hospitalized with an eating disorder rose by 70% over the previous decade.

Bulimia is a serious mental illness, just like any eating disorder. It can occur in anyone, and there doesn't need to be any shame around it — for women or men.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).