Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can affect both males and females. Unfortunately, males who are affected by this disorder have a mortality rate six times higher than males in the general population. To raise awareness of this life-threatening disorder, a new article has been published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

“Early identification and prompt treatment are essential,” writes Dr. Basil Kadoura, a specialist in adolescent health, British Columbia Children’s Hospital and University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, with coauthors.

Here are five essential things that you should know about anorexia nervosa in males:

  1. 1. It is estimated that up to 0.3% of males may receive a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. However, negative attitudes and beliefs surrounding mental health, poor understanding, and gender-based stereotypes can discourage those affected from seeking help. This can lead to delayed treatment and worse outcomes.
  2. Adolescent males who are involved in body- and strength-focused sports such as cycling, running, and wrestling, are at a higher risk of developing the disorder. Racially and ethnically diverse males and individuals who identify as gay, bisexual, trans, or queer are also at a higher risk.
  3.  It is important to screen individuals who have muscle-enhancing goals and behaviors to assess for anorexia nervosa. Red flags to look out for include changes in diet, vomiting, over-exercising, and the use of supplements and anabolic steroids. The Muscularity Oriented Eating Test is a useful tool to assess these eating behaviors.
  4. Complications arising from anorexia nervosa can be life-threatening. These may include vital sign instability, a slower than normal heart rate, electrolyte imbalances, and other conditions. Conducting a detailed history, physical examination, and bloodwork can help identify serious medical issues and guide treatment.
  5. For outpatients, family-based treatment is recommended. This approach considers parents as experts in their adolescent’s care and involves them in re-nourishing their child.

“Most adolescent males with anorexia nervosa can be treated as outpatients with family-based treatment and ongoing medical monitoring. However, some adolescents may require treatment in hospital,” write the authors.

This news is a creative derivative product from articles published in famous peer-reviewed journals and Govt reports:

1. Gorrell S, Murray SB. Eating disorders in males. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2019;28:641–51.
2. Quadflieg N, Strobel C, Naab S, et al. Mortality in males treated for an eating disorder — a large prospective study. Int J Eat Disord 2019;52:1365–9.
3. Nagata JM, Ganson KT, Murray SB. Eating disorders in adolescent boys and young men: an update. Curr Opin Pediatr 2020;32:476–81.
4. Lock J, le Grange D. Treatment manual for anorexia nervosa: a family-based approach. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford; 2013.
5. Couturier J, Isserlin L, Norris M, et al. Canadian practice guidelines for the treatment of children and adolescents with eating disorders. J Eat Disord 2020;8:4. doi:10.1186/s40337-020-0277-8.

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