Anorexia nervosa: Gender inequalities in reaction and treatment of Anorexia

“The National Eating Disorders Association cites that 20 million women and 10 million men will have an eating disorder during their lifetime. Males make up 25% of people with anorexia” (Spanjers, 2021). 

Specifically this post will be talking about Anorexia Nervosa, which is a severe and sometimes deadly disease. “The risk of death due to anorexia is more than double the death rate of schizophrenia, almost triple the rate of bipolar disorder, and more than triple the rate of death due to depression” (Spanjers, 2021). This disease is not bound to a particular gender, but inevitably affects both. Yet despite that, the treatment and reactions from this disease present a vast differentiation between males and females.

Anorexia Nervosa is generally assumed that females will experience this disease at a much higher rate. While that may be somewhat true, we can not discard that both indeed experience these diseases. “The rates of eating disorders in males is much higher than previously thought – with female to male ratios ranging from 1:1 to 1:10” (Timko, DeFilipp, & Dakanalis, 2019). In a study conducted NCIB “Compared to females, males are more likely to present with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder or subthreshold binge-eating disorder”(Timko, DeFilipp, & Dakanalis, 2019). One difference between genders can be exemplified in the reactions and reasonings towards anorexia nervosa. With respect to reactions to those suffering from this form of eating disorder males tend to restricily eat and accompany that with vigorous exercise, whereas women typically only restrict their diet. Another difference is in the reasoning between males and females. In the same study as mentioned above they found that women’s reasoning for the disease were due to an “increased drive for thinness” whereas males desire was composed of “increased concern with muscularity and shape” (Timko, DeFilipp, & Dakanalis, 2019). This is possibly due to preconceived notions posed by society on how each should ideally look.

Not only are the reasoning and reactions between the two genders in regards to eating disorders different, but also the treatment plan and search for help show significant differences. The stigma in regards to how this particular disease is dealt with creates rifts in treatments between the two. “Men are less likely to seek ED treatment services and are also less likely to be diagnosed with an ED if they do seek help for psychological difficulties” (Thapliyal, Hay, & Conti, 2018). This is due to the societal perceptions of shame and fear clouding anorexia nervosa occurring within men, which leads the male to not seek professional treatment. In addition this pertains to physicians, “there exists a lack of awareness among clinicians and under diagnosis of EDs in men” (Thapliyal, Hay, & Conti, 2018). There needs to exist a rise in awareness of health physicians unintentional bias and negative assumptions about how to treat patients with Anorexia Nervosa based on gender. 

The consequences of ignoring and/or marginalizing reactions and treatments of eating disorders related to gender will continue to have inevitable implications for the process and treatment of the diseases. “Greater consideration and inclusion of gendered perspectives in ED identification and the transformation of ED treatments holds scope for more significant and meaningful positive outcomes for those with lived experience” (Thapliyal, Hay, & Conti, 2018).

My hope is that by becoming aware we can actively speak up for these biased marginalized differences and create a safer better way to treat all genders who suffer from this deadly disease. Thanks for reading! 

Works Cited:

Spanjers, B. (2021, February 17). Eating Disorder Statistics: Get the Facts Here. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://centerfordiscovery.com/blog/get-the-facts-eating-disorder-statistics/

Timko, C., DeFilipp, L., & Dakanalis, A. (2019, January 12). Sex differences in adolescent anorexia and bulimia nervosa: Beyond the signs and symptoms. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6559358/Thapliyal, P., Hay, P., & Conti, J. (2018, August 13). Role of gender in the treatment experiences of people with an eating disorder: A metasynthesis. Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-018-0207-1#ref-CR26

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