What does an eating disorder look like in men?

You might be surprised to learn that eating disorders will affect 10 million U.S. males at some point in their lives. Because eating disorders are commonly thought of as "female-only" conditions, studies have found that eating disorders in men are "underdiagnosed, undertreated, and misunderstood."

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male. These disorders can range from binge eating and purging to anorexia and compulsive exercising. A study from the journal Eating Disorders shows that women with eating disorders tend to focus on weight loss, while men with eating disorders are prone "to have as much desire to gain weight as they are to lose it." Many men believe the "ideal" body type is muscular and lean, and 25 percent of "normal weight males" perceive themselves to be underweight.

Many factors play a role in men and boys being under- and undiagnosed for eating disorders says NEDA. If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it could be time to ask for help.

1. Extreme eating regimen. This includes restricting certain foods or entire categories of foods, frequent dieting, and strict meal preparation.

2. Presence of other mental health conditions. NEDA reports that men with eating disorders tend to also suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

3. Excessive exercise. This could be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder, where an individual is obsessed with certain parts of their body or perceive themselves as unattractive, or anorexia athleticism, where the person is using exercise to compensate their caloric intake.

4. Noticeable fluctuation in weight. Losing or gaining a drastic amount of weight (especially in a short time) is something to be concerned about if the weight loss or gain is not done in a healthy manner.

5. Abnormal blood tests. According to NEDA, "men and boys with anorexia nervosa usually exhibit low levels of testosterone and vitamin D, and they have a high risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis." It's also possible that an eating disorder could cause anemia, low thyroid, low potassium, and low white or red blood cell counts.

6. Frequent illness. Eating disorders can lead to impaired immune functioning, as well as a variety of other physical symptoms and illnesses, like gastrointestinal pain, poor wound healing, and dental problems.