Eating Disorders: Gender and Sex Differences

Although often used interchangeably, the terms gender and sex have distinct meanings: Gender refers to social characteristics (e.g., beliefs, attitudes, behaviors) associated with one’s sex, whereas sex refers to one’s biological status (i.e., male, female, intersex). Traditionally, eating disorders have been conceptualized as “women’s issues”; however, they are becoming more widely recognized among men. Differences exist between men and women in the prevalence, clinical presentation, development, and treatment of these disorders. The reason for such differences is unknown, but theories consider underdetection, measurement error, and biological, social, and psychological factors.


Prevalence estimates vary greatly due to differences in case detection in community samples, as well as differing sample sizes, methodologies, and selection criteria in different studies. Among adults, the lifetime prevalence for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, ...

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