What can we learn from the history of male anorexia nervosaReport as inadecuate

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Journal of Eating Disorders

, 2:138

First Online: 31 December 2014Received: 18 July 2014Accepted: 13 December 2014DOI: 10.1186-s40337-014-0036-9

Cite this article as: Zhang, C. J Eat Disord 2014 2: 138. doi:10.1186-s40337-014-0036-9


The eating disorders literature has focussed on females and little is known of the male experience. The overall image this has generated suggests a young woman in conflict with socio-cultural pressures which associate thinness with beauty. Historical studies have examined anorexia nervosa from an entirely female focus while ignoring how diagnostic categories have shaped approaches to the male body. This paper will track the case of the male with anorexia nervosa through changing theories of causation and treatment approaches, from when the condition first emerged in 1873 to the present. In doing so, we gain a valuable new insight into how anorexia nervosa has been historically gendered and the far-reaching implications this has had for diagnosis and treatment of the male sufferer.

Similarities between the sexes helped to establish male anorexia as a distinct category. However, this shifted focus away from important differences, which have yet unexplored implications in the assessment, diagnosis and management of disordered eating. Throughout history, there has been constant pressure to give a precise definition to anorexia nervosa, despite being fraught with medical uncertainties. This has resulted in inevitably harmful generalisations rooted in the dominant epidemiology. This paper reveals that anorexia nervosa is a truly global phenomenon which cannot be adequately constructed through exclusive studies of the female. There is consequently a pressing need to address the dearth of research examining eating disorders in males.

KeywordsAnorexia nervosa Eating disorder History of psychiatry  Download fulltext PDF

Author: Chengyuan Zhang

Source: https://link.springer.com/

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