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Perceptions harm anorexic men

Wednesday April 9th, 2014

Men and boys with eating disorders may be deterred from seeking help because their problem is seen as a female issue, researchers warned today.

About one in eight people with anorexia nervosa is male, according to a new study.

This equates to one in 2,000 men, compared with 1 in 250 women. Anorexia is one of the four recognised types of eating disorder, with the others being bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS).

Rates among men are rising, but there is often poor recognition of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in men, warn Dr Ulla Raisanen of Oxford University, UK, and her team. They interviewed 39 young people aged 16 to 25 with an eating disorder. Of the interviewees, ten were men.

The male respondents were all slow to realise that they had potential signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. Crucially, behaviours such as going days without eating, purging, obsessive calorie counting, exercise, and weighing became entrenched during this time.

Some cited the perception that eating disorders are a women's problem as one of the main reasons why it took them so long to realise. One said he thought eating disorders only affected "fragile teenage girls", and another said he thought these disorders were "something girls got".

The eating disorder often went unrecognised by friends, family, and teachers. It was only diagnosed at a crisis point such as being admitted to hospital.

The study is published in the journal BMJ Open. The authors write: "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."

Raisanen, U. et al. The role of gendered constructions of eating disorders in delayed help-seeking men: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open 9 April 2014 doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004342 [abstract]

Tags: Menís Health | Mental Health | UK News

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