Gender Identity and Eating Disorders

Murray, S.B. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online: November 10, 2016


Few psychiatric disorders are as sexually dimorphic as the eating disorders. Current prevalence estimates illustrate a striking disparity between male and female eating disorders, with many reports noting a ratio of 1:10 . While recent epidemiological data suggest a ratio closer to 1:4, the relative greater preponderance of eating disorders in female populations is well established.

Furthermore, alongside these differential prevalence rates, recent evidence also points toward a phenomenological difference in the symptomatic presentation of male versus female eating disorders. Indeed, epidemiological studies have consistently illustrated greater self-reported concerns around muscularity than thinness among males and a greater concern around thinness as opposed to muscularity in females.

This distinction is also evident in clinical populations, where males with eating disorders are likely to report greater concern, and concomitant eating disorder psychopathology, around their degree of muscularity, as opposed to thinness per se, whereas females with eating disorders do not typically endorse muscularity-oriented concerns.

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