Self-Silencing Present in Men with Eating Issues

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 John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • El


    September 24th, 2011 at 6:40 AM

    Gosh how terrible to think of living this way!
    We all tend to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves, but it really can get you into some dicey situations when you have dire and pressing mental issues that need to be addressed too.
    And I would think that in men especially since eating disorders are commonly thought to be something that women experience then it would be even more difficult to have that conversation about themselves.

  • Joe


    September 24th, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    I think that for men with eating disorders the problems run even deeper thatn they do for women. This is not something that you would generally expect in a man and the way that he would handle things, right? So there must be some very deep rooted issues there for him to choose to turn to coping with life via eating. I am not in any way demeaning what women feel, but I think that for men the issues are just very different. I think that for women it is about control, but for men, I just think that there is something more to it.

  • S. Malcolm

    S. Malcolm

    September 24th, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    Why do you think there are so many women sufferers? It’s because the men suffer in silence and they never admit to suffering from a “woman’s issue”, and these are the men that people see as 98 pound weaklings. Nobody would DARE to say things like that to a woman who is severely underweight because making fun of anorexics isn’t cool.

  • demi


    September 24th, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    this sounds like a horrible way to go out and please others.putting yourself in a spot to make things better and to accommodate others is not a healthy way of doing can really go on to wreck havoc to a personal’s self-esteem too.

  • Ian


    September 25th, 2011 at 5:20 AM

    There just aren’t that many disordered esting programs that are available to help with those specific male issues.

  • Erin R. Lewis

    Erin R. Lewis

    September 25th, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    It’s spread to men… oh my. How unfortunate and peculiar, I say this because men are rarely worried about their weight in the same way as women. Just as men a rarely criticized for weight issues. This must mean that their is alternative motive to eating disorders. A motive not simply to lose weight. Perhaps, since the study doesn’t specify, the large majority of men have eating disorders like binge eating. That would make more sense.

    I thought these men suffering from eating disorders were rare. Since in my experience a heavier man receives less insults than a very skinny one. It’s a sad day, when you here a terrible disorder is silently striking another demographic.

  • KIRS-10


    September 25th, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    Eating disorders have never been a threat to men. But it looks like that’s about to change. We need to try and stem this by getting the reasons for it and try to contain the prevalence in men quickly. Or it will soon affect more and more men and before we know it the numbers of those with eating issues would’ve doubled!

  • Noelle


    September 26th, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    Men are really bad about self silencing. Women seem to be much better at sharing their emotions whereas men seem to always keep everything inside. And as we can see this is not always the ehalthies route for good health.

  • Mandy


    September 26th, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    But why exactly do eating disorders produce such an effect of self-silencing? Is it because it makes a person feel guilty? Or does it have to do with a change in one’s thinking?

  • Mike


    September 26th, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    You kind of have to stop and wonder which disorder is causing the other. Do they internalize because of the bad feelings that they have about the eating problems or are the eating problems brought on by that silence? I would love to ehar some feedback on that.

  • Craig Holden

    Craig Holden

    September 26th, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    All victims of eating disorders are suffering from form of denial or simply don’t think that they have a problem. Newsflash! The World Health Organization and your doctor have amassed more knowledge about what is good and bad for the human body than you ever will in your lifetime. Thinking you’re fat in spite of what their countless charts and research says is when you have crossed the line into an eating disorder.

  • g. riley

    g. riley

    September 26th, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    @Craig Holden: My sister had anorexia and until she got therapy, she was completely sure that she was right and the doctors were wrong. This went on right up until she became so weak she had trouble getting out of bed or even driving her car.

    I don’t know any men who admit to have eating disorders. I can be certain though that at least some of the skinnier ones have a problem one way or another and just don’t talk about it.

  • N. Glenn

    N. Glenn

    September 26th, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Another problem caused by “gender roles” in society. Men get bald, women get anorexia. That accepted wisdom is as black and white as you can get and the ones who fall outside those stereotypes are ridiculed no matter what the initial cause was.

    This isn’t only a health issue, it’s also a social issue too. The stigma of mental disorders needs to be eradicated along with gender stereotyping.

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