Eating disorders primarily affect girls and women, but boys and men also are vulnerable. Boys with eating disorders show the same types of emotional, physical, and behavioral signs and symptoms as girls, but for a variety of reasons, boys are less likely to be diagnosed with what is often considered a stereotypically "female" disorder. Males account for an estimated 5 percent to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder.
Like females who have eating disorders, males with the illness have a distorted sense of body image and often have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular. Some boys with the disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or "bulk up." Boys who think they are too small are at a greater risk for using steroids or other dangerous drugs to increase muscle mass.