Drunkorexia and Young Men Drinking While Underfed: Important Considerations for College Students

College student struggling with Eating Disorder

The college years can be some of the most enjoyable and care-free. For many young men, this is a time of discovering adult freedoms, making new friends, and enjoying relationships without the responsibilities of long-term careers and family. These same factors also create vulnerabilities when you combine a focus on appearance, social drinking, and sexuality sometimes leading to drunkorexia.

Research indicates that males are increasingly feeling more pressure to meet unrealistic body image standards. [1] For some, this means putting on weight and muscle mass while others feel a need to restrict and lose weight. In either situation, males may be restricting food and calories to cut fat. Combine this with the social practice of binge drinking among young adults, and you have a potential disaster. [2]

Drunkorexia is “the use of compensatory behaviors—which may include restricting eating, purging, or exercise—in order to offset the calories ingested from alcohol, enhance intoxication, or both.” [3] In other words, some men, to cope with the pressure appear fit and participate in binge drinking behaviors (5 or more drinks in 2 hours), will skip meals and head to a party on an empty stomach. Or, to experience feeling drunk faster, then will intentionally drink on an empty stomach.

The website for the University of Texas at Austin highlights several risks associated with drinking while being underfed, including nutritional deficiencies, higher risk for physical injury, and poor judgment. [4]

Getting drunk in social settings already charged with risky behavior and sexualized interactions is also particularly dangerous.

Alcohol myopia is a theory that tries to explain what happens to the mind when someone gets drunk. Rather than merely decreasing inhibitions, the theory suggests that being intoxicated focuses the attention on the most salient environmental cues. Myopia means to become overly focused on the here-and-now and lose sight of future consequences.

Man considering his Drunkorexia behaviorsIn other words, if you are watching a basketball game with friends, you become even more responsive to what is happening in the game (if you have ever sat next to a drunk fan at a sporting event, you know what this looks like). If you are interacting with someone you find sexually attractive, your sexual impulses become intensified.

Combined with losing sight of long-term consequences, this may lead to unwanted advances or unsafe sex. Any time your long-term decision-making functions are impaired, you are in danger of harming yourself or others.

Proper nutrition is key to many aspects of personal health, including mental clarity, sufficient energy, organ function, and immune health. It is also a protective factor when drinking alcohol and decision making.


[1] Cruz, J. S. (2014, March 10). Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys. Retrieved December 21, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897/.
[2] Rapaport, L. (2019, February 14). More young adults binge-drinking well into their 20s. Retrieved December 21, 2019, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-alcoholism-young-adults/more-young-adults-binge-drinking-well-into-their-20s-idUSKCN1Q32UT.
[3] Muhlheim, L. (2019, August 4). When College Drinking and Disordered Eating Collide: Drunkorexia. Retrieved December 21, 2019, from https://www.verywellmind.com/college-drinking-and-disordered-eating-drunkorexia-4176352.
[4] The University of Texas at Austin. (n.d.). Drunkorexia? Retrieved December 21, 2019, from https://healthyhorns.utexas.edu/drunkorexia.html.

About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help.

This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. His website is wtravisstewart.com

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published January 20, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 20, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.