Using network analysis to identify central eating disorder symptoms among men

Lauren N. Forrest*, Natalie M. Perkins, Jason M. Lavender, April R. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: The network theory of psychopathology has been described as an “innovative framework” that may “transform” clinical psychological science. Several network studies have identified central eating disorder (ED) symptoms, yet studies have been comprised primarily of women. Using two large samples, we constructed ED symptom networks among men to identify central symptoms. Method: Participants were recruited from three universities and using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Participants completed the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q), Male Body Attitudes Scale, and Drive for Muscularity Scale. ED symptom networks were jointly estimated among men with (n = 248) and without core ED symptoms (n = 902). Core ED symptoms were defined by (a) scoring above a suggested male EDE-Q clinical cutoff and (b) reporting symptoms consistent with probable ED diagnoses. Expected influence and predictability (proportion of each node's variance explained by other nodes in the network) were calculated for each node. Results: Shape overvaluation, desiring weight loss, fear of losing control over eating, feeling guilty for missing weight training, and using supplements had the greatest expected influence and predictability. Network structures did not significantly differ between participants with versus without core ED symptoms. Discussion: The centricity of body dissatisfaction items in the networks supports some components of cognitive behavioral theories of EDs. However, the findings also suggest the importance of muscularity- and leanness-oriented concerns, which have been traditionally neglected from leading ED theories that tend to focus on thinness pursuits as a main driver of body dissatisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-884
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • eating disorder
  • leanness
  • men
  • muscularity
  • network analysis


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