Sexuality & Gender
This category contains 9 posts

Gendering the Pro-Anorexia Paradox: Men in Pro-Ana Spaces

When someone says “pro-ana,” what comes to mind? Likely, given the strong reactions pro-anorexia websites provoke, you may be able to conjure up an image of what would take place in such a forum. Thoughts of “thinspiration,” emaciated and waif-like images, and starving tips likely spring to mind, alongside considerations of the dangers of a community that would encourage behaviors that can be very harmful to health.

I’d venture to say that it is unlikely that you have pictured a man participating in these sites. Given that we know that men get eating disorders too, and that they may feel alienated in their struggles, is it surprising that some might seek out online communities, including pro-ana?

As Tetyana noted in previous posts on pro-ana (here and here), these sites can serve a harm reduction purpose and/or provide a space for sufferers to openly and honestly share their struggles and seek support from a community of understanding others. Is it possible that men, who may feel even more stigmatized than women with eating disorders (see this post, too), …

Impossible Binaries? Eating Disorders Among Trans Individuals

Recently I was doing some research for an upcoming (and very exciting)  endeavour that involves exploring eating disorders among LGBTQ individuals. As one does, I set about scouring the research literature in this area in the hopes of stumbling across some prior articles on which to hang my proverbial research hat.

As I sifted through the databases, however, my searches kept coming up short. After sending out a call to a list-serv enquiring about the state of the field in this area, I received many responses highlighting the gap that surrounds trans individuals in particular. While this is good news for arguing for the value in conducting research in this area, it is discouraging news when it comes to understanding and attending to the experiences of trans people with eating disorders.

All this is to say, it seems as though now is as good a time as any to dip my toes into writing in this area through blogging about it. To focus this discussion, I will explore an article I came across in my search by Murray, Boon, and …

Life After Recovery for Men with Eating Disorders

While there is growing recognition that (surprise, surprise!) men are not immune to eating disorders, men are still underrepresented in the literature about eating disorders. We know comparatively little about what it is like to be a man with an eating disorder, and less still about recovery and life after recovery for these individuals. Recently, Björk, Wallin, & Pettersen (2012) conducted a qualitative study that asked men who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder and completed treatment to describe how recovery factors into their present lives. The researchers interviewed 15 men aged 19-52 (mean age 23) in Norway and Sweden, 10 of whom had been diagnosed with AN, 4 with BN, and 1 with EDNOS. The authors did not specify duration of illness.

PHENOMENOGRAPHY

The authors used a phenomenographical approach to study recovery among men. Though I am familiar with qualitative methods, this approach was new to me. From what I gather, phenomenography is an approach that focuses on a particular phenomenon (in this case, recovery from an eating disorder), and the similarities and differences in how …

Eating Disorders Among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

The hardest part of science blogging is picking an article to blog about. In times when I’m indecisive–when I spend hours sifting through the literature, inevitably creating several draft posts before deciding each article isn’t interesting enough–I turn to the list of topics that have been suggested by readers. The last suggestion I received was “eating disorders in the lesbian community.” It is a great suggestion, but I thought my search wouldn’t turn up much. But, to my surprise, it did turn up some studies.

But please, don’t expect too much: it is not a well-studied area, and most of the data comes from self-reported questionnaires, which are not particularly reliable:

  • First, there’s selection bias: the 50% or so of people who return the surveys could be different in significant ways from the 50% that don’t. For example, in a survey about mental health, perhaps individuals that have had personal experiences with mental health issues are more likely to respond. This skews the data in a such a way that it might appear that a specific subgroup

Understanding Disordered Eating in Trans People

Gender nonconformity is the second most popular search term that leads people to Science of Eating Disorders. (After “science of eds” and beating “science of eating disorders”.) Not far behind are variants of “FtM/MtF/transsexual/transgender” combined with “eating disorder/anorexia/bulimia”. That’s telling. It means there is little information on this topic. And it is not just that there’s too little information available to the public – there are only a handful of published studies in the peer-reviewed literature.

One study (which I discussed in my previous post: Gender Nonconformity, Transsexuality and Eating Disorders) published by Vocks et al (2009), compared disordered eating patterns, body image disturbances and self-image scores among trans women and men (131 participants in both groups) and cis female and male controls as well as to females with eating disorders.

Overall, they found disordered eating patterns reported by trans women and trans men were in the middle of those diagnosed with eating disorders and non-ED, cis controls. More specifically, trans women individuals had more severe disordered eating pathology than both female and male control groups, whereas trans men individuals reported higher levels …

Eating Disorders: Do Men and Women Differ?

Given that eating disorders disproportionately affect women, it is not unreasonable to assume that men differ from women in clinical presentation, personality and psychological characteristics. My guess would be that they differ. My reasoning is this: males and females grow up facing different pressures and expectations. Given that, I’d think there would be (perhaps only slightly) different risk factors that predispose men and women to develop eating disorders. Thus, I’d think that different groups of men and women (i.e. with different personality characteristics, psychiatric comorbidities, and life experiences) would be susceptible to EDs. (Hopefully that makes sense.) To answer that question, Dr. D. Blake Woodside and colleagues compared men with eating disorders vs. women with eating disorders vs. men without eating disorders.

Why are females much more likely to suffer from eating disorders than males? It appears that (at least) two arguments have been put forth:

One argument has been that because eating disorders are so rare in males, the nature of the illness must somehow be atypical in males. The second line of discussion has suggested that there

What’s it Like to be a Man with an Eating Disorder?

What is it like for men to live with an eating disorder? What is it like for men to seek and receive treatment for an eating disorder? These are the questions that Kate Robinson and colleagues asked a group of eight men who were receiving treatment (inpatient, day patient or outpatient) at two ED treatment centers in the UK. Their goal was to find out if and how men’s experiences with an eating disorder differ from women with eating disorders.

Men account for roughly 10% of eating disorder patients (when considering anorexia and bulimia, not including binge eating disorder, which is not yet part of the DSM). I suspect this number is actually higher – as less men probably realize they have an ED, admit to having an ED or seek treatment, precisely due to the issues raised in this article (and others). Given that men form a sizeable minority of ED patients, and yet many individuals – clinicians among them – believe EDs are a women-only issue, knowing and understanding the experiences of male ED patients is crucial …

Gender Nonconformity, Transsexuality and Eating Disorders

Too many people still mistakenly believe that eating disorders are for the Mary-Kates, Nicole Richies and Lara-Flynn Boyles, or vain adolescent and teenage girls aspiring to be just like them. Actually, as I’ve blogged earlier, even male veterans in late middle age are not immune to struggling with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. All in all, males make up ~ 5-10% of all eating disorder sufferers.

But what about those that dread having to check off “male” or “female” on a data form? What about individuals who feel their gender identity is not the same as their assigned birth sex. Perhaps they were born in a female body, with two XX chromosomes, but they feel and prefer to think of themselves as males, or the reverse? There’s some research (albeit limited, due to the rarity of both gender dysphoria and eating disorders) that suggests these individuals face an increased risk of developing eating disorders.

The most relevant and recent study on the intersection of gender identity and eating disorders that I found was published by Vocks et al. in …

EDs Don’t Discriminate: Psychiatric Comorbidity in Men with Eating Disorders

Eating disorders don’t discriminate, they just have a bias (more on this in the future). While the majority of eating disorder patients are females, males suffer from eating disorders as well. In fact, it is about, roughly, a 10:1 ratio.

Men tend to just keep quiet about it (and who can blame them, given the stigma women face, it only gets worse for the men.) But, on the inside, their experiences, thoughts, behaviours and recovery span the same spectrum.

There’s relatively little research out there on men with eating disorders, in large part due to the low prevalence rates which makes it harder to get a large enough sample size. So, you have to get creative, as the authors of this study did: they reviewed the prevalence of eating disorders and comorbid psychiatric disorders using data from the Veterans Affairs medical centers of male patients in the fiscal year of 1996. In total: 466,950 males, 0.02% (98) of whom had an ED (using ICD-9-CM criteria). (By comparison, 0.3% of female veterans had an ED, out of 24,041 women.)

Striegel-Moore et al - 1999 - Table 1 Adapted

Males, …

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