The enigma of male eating disorders: A critical review and synthesis

Clin Psychol Rev. 2017 Nov:57:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Aug 2.


Historically, male presentations of eating disorders (EDs) have been perceived as rare and atypical - a perception that has resulted in the systematic underrepresentation of males in ED research. This underrepresentation has profoundly impacted clinical practice with male patients, in which i) stigmatization and treatment non-engagement are more likely, ii) a distinct array of medical complexities are faced, and iii) symptom presentations differ markedly from female presentations. Further, the marginalization of males from ED research has hindered the assessment and clinical management of these presentations. This critical review provides an overview of the history of male EDs and synthesizes current evidence relating to the unique characteristics of male presentations across the diagnostic spectrum of disordered eating. Further, the emerging body of evidence relating to muscularity-oriented eating is synthesized in relation to the existing nosological framework of EDs. The impact of marginalizing male ED patients is discussed, in light of findings from epidemiological studies suggesting that clinicians will be increasingly likely to see males with ED in their practices. It is suggested that changes to current conceptualizations of ED pathology that better accommodation male ED presentations are needed.

Keywords: Eating disorders; Male body image; Male eating disorders; Muscle dysmorphia; Muscularity-oriented disordered eating.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal*