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Boys Get Anorexia Too: Coping with Male Eating Disorders in the Family

Boys don't Get Anorexia, do They?

Contributors: Jenny Langley Print Pub. Date: 2006 Online Pub. Date: May 31, 2012 Print ISBN: 9781412920223 Online ISBN: 9781446213353 DOI: 10.4135/9781446213353 Print pages: 4-5 This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.

SAGE KNOWLEDGE - FACULTY Copyright 2012

SAGE Publications, Inc.

10.4135/9781446213353 [p. 4 ]

Chapter 2: Boys don't Get Anorexia, do They?


Anorexia is certainly more common in girls and one of the symptoms that GP's tend to look for, as an indicator of anorexia, is loss of periods. There is no such obvious indicator for boys. One of the main problems in recognising anorexia in boys is that lots of teenage boys go through stretch and grow phases in which they become extremely skinny despite still having a healthy appetite. Many boys are naturally very skinny even before entering puberty, but are in excellent health. When Joe first lost weight we thought he was simply going through a normal teenage stretch and grow phase, and my younger son is going through a very similar growth phase now that he is twelve. The big difference with Joe was that he didn't stop losing weight, he gradually ate less and less, he became very pale and was always cold, he became tearful and depressed, he became distant from his friends and much more clingy to me. This was a boy who had previously been full of vitality and energy, very popular with his peers, very sporty, in the top stream at school and had a very healthy appetite. As his character started to change I thought that maybe he was just going through a difficult phase of puberty, but then his behaviour became quite extreme. Before his anorexia was finally diagnosed he was subjected to every medical examination you can imagine. I lay awake at night worrying that he had leukemia, some sort of other blood disorder or cancer. When he became fearful of fluids I worried he had rabies. He physically disappeared and mentally he had become a stranger, withdrawing from normal life before our very eyes. It was as if someone else had possessed him. We called this person Rex. The fact is boys do get anorexia and other eating disorders. Since Joe's illness I have come across several other cases similar to ours, and many parents have asked me for advice having noticed that their son's eating habits and/or personality has taken a turn for the worse. Most commentators on eating disorders will tell you that about 10% of sufferers are male but it is almost impossible to work out how this figure has been
Page 2 of 3 Boys Get Anorexia Too: Coping with Male Eating Disorders in the Family: Boys don't Get Anorexia, do They? SAGE knowledge

SAGE KNOWLEDGE - FACULTY Copyright 2012

SAGE Publications, Inc.

arrived at. In the younger age group (early teens) a higher proportion are boys, but figures vary enormously depending on which study has been used. Joe's psychiatrist told me that in his current practice he had treated nine patients with very severe anorexia that required in-patient treatment. Three of those were boys! What is clear is that eating disorders in young people are on the increase and this includes boys as well as girls. 10.4135/9781446213353.n2

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Boys Get Anorexia Too: Coping with Male Eating Disorders in the Family: Boys don't Get Anorexia, do They? SAGE knowledge