Males eating disorders: importance of body image distortion

Disturbi del comportamento alimentare nei maschi: l'importanza della distorsione dell'immagine corporea

P. Moretti, F. Fontana*, P. Eusebi**, T. La Ferla*

Sezione di Psichiatria, Psicologia Clinica e Riabilitazione Psichiatrica, * Scuola di Specializzazione in Psichiatria, Università di Perugia; ** Dipartimento di Economia, Finanza e Statistica, Università di Perugia, Ospedale Santa Maria della Misericordia, località Sant'Andrea delle Fratte (PG)



– To evaluate the prevalence of the risk condition for the eating disorders in males.

– To identify possible psychological factors related to such condition, among which, body image distortion.

– To evaluate the relationship between risk conditions for eating disorders and some body image change strategies in teenager males.


The selected subjects for this work were hosted at the Convitto Unificato INPDAP of Spoleto (PG, Italy), in May 2006 (n = 54). The sample was investigated using four self-reported questionnaires: a socio-demographic record purposely prepared by the authors, the EDI-2 (Eating Disorders Inventory; Garner et al., 2000), the BUT (Body Uneasiness Test; Cuzzolaro et al., 2000), and the AHRB (Adolescent Health Risk Behaviours; McCabe and Ricciardelli, 2006). Positive results on the “Drive for Thinness” (IM) subscale and on the “Bulimia” (BU) subscales of the EDI-2 would indicate a risk condition for eating disorders. Accordingly, the sample was divided into four main groups: IM or BU positive subjects, IM positive subjects, BU positive subjects, IM and BU negative subjects. The subjects resulting negative at both of the subscales represented our control group, the other ones were compared to it individually. We used the Anova to detect differences between people at risk for ED and those not at risk.


Socio-demographical record outcomes show that the young males (n = 54) are between 11 and 20 years old, with an average age of 16.5 years (SD = 1.87). The 65% of them comes from the South, the 31% from the Centre and the remaining 2% from the North of Italy. In our sample, two persons scored high on the IM subscale; eight persons scored high on the BU subscale; and one person scored high on both IM and BU scales. Therefore, nine persons can be considered at risk for eating disorders. The at-risk subjects for eating disorders obtained highly significant scores in some scales (Tables I-III): o the Perfectionism”, the “Interceptive Awareness” and the “Impulse Regulation” scales of EDI-2; o the “GSI “, the “Weight phobia” and the “PSDI” scales of the BUT; o the “Body Image Importance”, the “Body Change Strategies to Decrease Weight”, the “Food Supplements” and the “Body Change Strategies to Increase Muscles” scales of the AHRB.


Of the 54 male subjects investigated, 16.6% (n = 9) are at risk for eating disorders. Study results support the importance of body image distortion for eating disorder onset in males. In fact, the following two features are found to be closely related to the risk for eating disorders: low enteroceptive awareness and distorted cognitive-emotional component of body image. From our data analysis, other psychological features seem to be important for the risk of eating disorders: perfectionism and impulsiveness. Our results confirm also the relationship between risk for eating disorders and some dramatic body change strategies that were previously assessed through the AHRB.

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