Increase in men with eating disorders, study suggests
Their behaviours included going days without eating, purging and obsessive calorie counting, exercise and weighing
THE widespread perception that only women have eating disorders is preventing men with these problems from getting the help and support they need, according to a new study. The study was carried out in the UK, but the rise in eating disorders in men is also seen in Ireland.
The study interviewed 39 young people aged between 16 and 25, 10 of whom were men, about their experiences of eating disorders, in a bid to gauge the impact of gender on diagnosis, treatment, and support.
The interviews were carried out to inform an online patient resource (Healthtalkonline), and participants were recruited from patient organisations, social media and healthcare professionals.
Four themes emerged from the interviews: recognition of early signs and symptoms; recognition of the problem; getting help and initial contact with healthcare and support services.
All the men took some time to realise that their experiences and behaviours were potential signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, during which time these became entrenched.
Their behaviours included going days without eating, purging and obsessive calorie counting, exercise and weighing. Some also self-harmed and increasingly isolated themselves from others.
The perception that eating disorders are a women's problem was cited as one of the main reasons why it took them so long to understand what was happening.
It was only reaching a crisis point that triggered the realisation of what was happening to them.
They also delayed seeking help because they feared they wouldn't be taken seriously by healthcare professionals, or didn't know where to go.
"Men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed, undertreated and under researched," write the authors."
Our findings suggest that men may experience particular problems in recognising that they may have an eating disorder as a result of the continuing cultural construction of eating disorders as uniquely or predominantly a female problem."
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