Eating Disorders in Adolescent Males: An Critical Examination of Five Common Assumptions
Alison M. Darcy
Affiliation: Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Males have not received much attention in the eating disorders (ED) literature, and adolescent males have received even less. As a result, we have inappropriately extrapolated from the adult literature, and many commonly held assumptions have gone unchallenged. This paper discusses some of the most common assumptions made about EDs in adolescent males, and reviews the evidence for those assumptions. Specifically, the assumptions that (1) males account for 10% of ED cases; (2) ED behaviours are rare among adolescent males; (3) EDs are similar in males and females; (4) males are not subjected to media programming depicting physical ideals in the same way that females are; and (5) EDs are exclusively associated with female gender, are discussed. It now seems clear that while there are many more adolescent males in the community with EDs than estimates from clinical samples would suggest, there are insufficient data to allow us to draw conclusions about the similarity between male and female EDs. Males are subjected to media programming that prescribe an equally unattainable physique as for females, however, it may affect them indirectly. Finally, contrary to being feminine issues, EDs in males are sometimes related to factors usually associated with extreme masculinity, such as muscle mass and athleticism. While these opposing views are offered, in general, there are very little data from which to conclude and further research is encouraged.
Keywords: Males, eating disorders, adolescents, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, media programming, extreme masculinity, athleticism, unattainable physique
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