Gender impacts a great deal of how we all experience life. The thoughts and beliefs we have and the choices we make can all be impacted by how we view ourselves within a society as well as how society views us, and gender plays a (sometimes too) large role in this.
This is the reason that, while eating disorders do not discriminate and can impact anyone in the world, the experience of them, from onset to recovery, can differ.
3% of women in the United States are diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and, while the female to male ratio for BED is less discrepant than other eating disorders at 2:1, it is still significant .
These women face unique mental and physical concerns that might change the behavioral and ideological underpinnings of their disorder, how it manifests itself, as well as how it can be most effectively treated.
Gender Differences in Binge Eating Disorder
Very few studies have compared BED in men and women, however, those that do have had interesting findings in symptom presentation. For example, in one study, men with BED symptoms had a higher average BMI than women. In this same study, women with BED were shown to have higher eating disorder psychopathology and depressive symptoms .
Other studies have elaborated on this psychopathology, specifically finding that women have higher rates of body dissatisfaction, drive for thinness, dietary restraint, and emotional eating . Comparatively, approximately 70% of men in one study did not report clinically significant weight or shape concerns at all .
Aspects like this can impact every facet of BED and indicate that the behavior of bingeing is not all that this disorder is about. These results show that, for most women, the experience of binge eating disorder is also incredibly psychological and emotional. This aspect must be considered and addressed in treatment for a woman to effectively work toward recovery.
BED can have a dangerous impact on the body, and this impact also changes depending on gender. For both men and women, binge eating disorder often results in unwanted weight gain and feelings of shame or guilt. These negative feelings then trigger future binge episodes, and a vicious cycle is started.
Women that struggle with BED are also at higher risk for Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, gallbladder disease, and certain types of cancer .
Further, women’s reproductive health can be impacted by the nutritional and physical changes of binge eating, such as ovulation, making it harder to get pregnant.
It would be naïve to act as if women and men did not walk through this world differently because of their presented gender. This changes their experience of life, just like their socioeconomic status, race, culture, religion, or personality traits. All of these aspects need to be considered in the treatment of eating disorders to support each individual toward recovery truly.
Resources Lydecker, J. A., Grilo, C. M. (2017). Comparing men and women with binge-eating disorder and comorbid obesity. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 51.  Shingleton, R. M. et al. (2015). Gender differences in clinical trials of binge-eating disorder: an analysis of aggregated data. American Psychological Association, 83:2.  Unknown (2018). Binge Eating Disorder. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published February 17, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 17, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC