Girls, Boys and Bodies
Presents an interview with clinical psychologist Marla Sanzone
regarding the increasing number of boys that are developing eating
disorders compared to girls, according to a study. Why more men are
developing such disorders; How eating disorders differ between genders;
Difference in treatment between genders.
By PT Staff published July 1, 1999 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
Marla Sanzone, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Annapolis, Maryland, is witnessing a disturbing new trend: more boys are now developing eating disorders. A 1991 study found that men accounted for only 5% of sufferers; that number has since risen to 10%. Sanzone spoke with PT about the growing problem among men.
Q. Why are more men developing such disorders?
A. The biggest change for men in the last decade has been fewer societal double standards about body size. The perfectly shaped bodies once expected of females in ads and on TV are now expected of men, too.
Q. How do eating disorders differ between genders?
A. While females tend to develop these disorders in the early college years, males seem to be more vulnerable in high school. As a general rule, anxiety and depression make both boys and girls more susceptible, though pre-existing depression and low self-esteem are more common in girls.
Like females, males are more prone to bulimia than anorexia, but men are more likely to exercise obsessively while girls fast or use laxatives. Many men also have a disorder called reverse anorexia, or bigarexia, which means that they see themselves as scrawny when they're really very big and muscular. Boys have a lot of shame, since these are still seen as female disorders, and girls tend to be much more vocal about discussing them.
Q. Does treatment differ?