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A Journal on Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychopharmacology

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
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Minerva Psichiatrica 2000 June;41(2):125-34

language: Italian

Hypotheses on the higher incidence of eating disorders in the female sex

Bollea E., Coccanari M. A., Mansi G.


To understand the developmental psychopathology of eating disorders it is crucial to explain the large gender discrepancy in the rates of these disorders. In this paper the authors analyse in several terms the relationship between gender and the existence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The most stimulating finding of this study is the link between cultural, feminist and psychodynamic theories. The selective and ambivalent focus on physical appearance in little girls' development, creates a baby pathway for expressing exhibitionistic concerns later on; interferences in female idealization processes since the fact that little girls are usually the same sex as their primary caretakers, and their use as narcisistic mother's extension, induce the girl to create self-definition through the eating disorder. Specific problem areas in female development can help explain women's greater susceptibility to pathological eating behavior. This article offers some ways that different theories can be harmonized to understand the core of bulimia and anorexia nervosa, multideterminated and heterogeneous problems.

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