Updated: Jan 17
Eating disorders are one of the most dangerous and silent psychiatric disorders, with high rates of mortality, comorbidities, and a chronic, relapsing illness course.¹⁻³ Historically, little research has been done on eating disorders in men, largely due to gender stigmas. Despite these stigmas, pioneering research in the 1960s explored eating disorders in adolescent men. Due to leaps in eating disorder research in the 1980s and 1990s, it was discovered that 10% of eating disorders are found in men.⁴ However, this is believed to be an underestimation, with a select few researchers citing 50% of eating disorders occurring in men.⁵
Eating disorders in women and men often manifest itself in a desire to lose weight and be thin, and attaining a more muscular body ideal, respectively.⁶⁻⁸ With boys as little as 6 years of age expressing a desire for a more muscular physique,⁹ researchers propose that this may predispose individuals to developing eating disorders. While women with eating disorders are more concerned about body weight than men with eating disorders, both men and women with eating disorders are shown to be equally concerned body shape.¹⁰
Looking to the future, societal stigmas must take into account the prevalence of eating disorders in men and women, allowing for better identification and care for those suffering with an eating disorder.
1. Berkman, N. D., Lohr, K. N., & Bulik, C. M. (2007). Outcomes of eating disorders: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(4), 293–309. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20369
2. Mitchell, J. E., & Crow, S. (2006). Medical complications of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(4), 438–443. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.yco.0000228768.79097.3e
3. Smink, F. R., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406–414. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-012-0282-y
4. Andersen, A. E. (1990). Males with eating disorders. Brunner, Mazel.
5. Bryant-Waugh, R. (2013). Feeding and eating disorders in children. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 26(6), 537–542. https://doi.org/10.1097/yco.0b013e328365a34b
6. Cafri, G., Thompson, J., Ricciardelli, L., McCabe, M., Smolak, L., & Yesalis, C. (2004). Pursuit of the muscular ideal: Physical and psychological consequences and putative risk factors. Clinical Psychology Review, 25(2), 215–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2004.09.003
7. Leit, R. A., Pope, H. G., & Gray, J. J. (2000). Cultural expectations of muscularity in men: The evolution of playgirl centerfolds. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 29(1), 90–93. https://doi.org/10.1002/1098-108x(200101)29:1<90::aid-eat15>3.0.co;2-f
8. Leit, R. A., Gray, J. J., & Pope, H. G. (2002). The media's representation of the ideal male body: A cause for muscle dysmorphia? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31(3), 334–338. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.10019
9. Baghurst, T., Carlston, D., Wood, J., & Wyatt, F. B. (2007). Preadolescent male perceptions of action FIGURE PHYSIQUES. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), 613–615. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.07.013
10. Strober, M., Freeman, R., Lampert, C., Diamond, J., Teplinsky, C., & DeAntonio, M. (2006). Are there gender differences in core symptoms, temperament, and short-term prospective outcome in anorexia nervosa? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 39(7), 570–575. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.20293