Eating problems, specifically anorexia and bulimia, are issues that most people believe only occur in women. But statistics show that the number of men who suffer with disordered eating patterns has risen to represent nearly a third of all cases. Researchers at the University of Florida have also recently discovered that some of the factors that contribute to disordered eating, specifically self-denial and self-silencing, appear to be similar in both men and women. “One speciﬁc form of self-denial that predicts negative psychological outcomes is self-silencing,” said Taylor K. Locker, lead author of a recent study examining the differences between genders with regards to eating issues. Locker said, “Self-silencing is a type of self-denial in which individuals deny or minimize their own emotional, mental, or physical needs to attend to those of others. By engaging in this form of self-denial, self-silencers may believe they are fulﬁlling important aspects of being a “good” friend or “good” romantic partner, perhaps with the expectation that self-silencing will result in acquiring or retaining important relationships.” However, Locker notes that very often, it is the attempt to achieve positive relationships that results in negative behaviors with food.
Because masculinity is often associated with emotion suppression, men who self-silence also experience psychological problems, including eating issues. Locker said, “Rigid adherence to traditional masculine norms prohibits men from experiencing their full human potential; this limiting experience of the full range of human emotions has been linked to depression, poor psychological wellbeing, and decreased marital satisfaction.” Locker and colleagues evaluated 140 women and 82 men, all between the ages of 18 and 22, using the Silencing the Self Scale and the Eating Disorders Inventory. They found that the women scored much higher than the men with regards to disordered eating. “However, men’s scores on the psychological composite measure were not signiﬁcantly different from women’s,” added the team. “The current study provides strong evidence for the relationship between self-silencing and the psychological aspects of disordered eating in men and women.”
Locker, T. K., Heesacker, M., & Baker, J. O. (2011, March 14). Gender Similarities in the Relationship Between Psychological Aspects of Disordered Eating and Self-Silencing. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0021905
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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