Eating Disorders and Boys
Eating disorders cause life threatening health problems. The three most common types of eating disorders are:
- Anorexia – a condition in which a child refuses to eat a normal amount of calories out of an intense fear of becoming fat.
- Bulimia – a condition in which a child binges (overeats) and then purges the food by vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain.
- Avoidant and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Eating disorders can alternate or occur simultaneously. They typically develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can start in childhood. Females tend to be more vulnerable.
Five to 15% of anorexia and bulimia sufferers are male, as well as 35% of those with binge eating disorders. Since these conditions are less common in boys, they are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
Triggers for these disorders can include teasing, abuse or parental divorce, bullying or even cultural images of beauty or fitness.
Warning signs can be more difficult to detect in boys because they are less likely than girls to talk about body image. They may become very picky eaters – even avoiding entire food groups. They might also feel ashamed of their disorder, making them less likely to confide in family or doctors.
Tests & Diagnosis
Your child’s doctor will conduct a comprehensive physical exam to rule out underlying medical concerns. This exam will include questions regarding changes in eating habits.
Your child will be assessed to determine the level of eating disorder treatment required. Levels of treatment can include outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, or inpatient.
In addition to stabilizing your child’s nutritional status, medical stabilization can include lab work, an EKG, a physical exam and assessment by a dietician. Eating disorder treatment may include family therapy, individual therapy, music therapy, art therapy and recreational therapy. Your child will be seen by a doctor daily, and nursing staff is available 24/7 for any medical or nursing needs.
What are some symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder in boys?
If your child is suffering with anorexia, you may notice that he is avoiding food groups or eating significantly less than he did previously. He may also exercise compulsively, lose weight rapidly and avoid meals altogether. If your child is suffering from bulimia, you may notice him binging on large amounts of food, eating in secret, regularly spending time in the bathroom after eating or regularly using laxatives. And if your child has a binge eating disorder, you may notice him eating excessive amounts of food, sneaking food, gaining weight quickly and experiencing mood swings.
What are some of the potential negative health effects of these disorders?
Anorexia can cause damage to major organs like the brain, heart and kidneys; an irregular heartbeat; low blood pressure; sensitivity to cold; electrolyte imbalance and even cardiac arrest. Bulimia can cause damage to tooth enamel, inflammation of the esophagus, swelling of the salivary glands and low blood levels of potassium that can lead to dangerous abnormal heart rhythms.
How can I help my child recover?
You can help your child as he’s treated for an eating disorder by setting a good example with your own healthy eating habits and positive body image; avoiding threats and put-downs; finding ways to promote your child’s self-esteem and encouraging him to find healthy ways to manage negative feelings.
Where can I find a support group?
We will provide you with resources to help both you and your child. The Resources link on this webpage is also a good source for more information about eating disorders and support groups.