Male eating disorders are being ignored

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Research has shown that young males suffering with eating disorders are being overlooked because this condition is perceived to be a ‘female illness’.

A study done in the UK has shown that men suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia, are not obtaining diagnoses and treatments, although they make up 25% of the reported cases.

The researchers said that health workers in the frontline play a key role in the identification of eating disorders in young males.

The researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford interviewed 39 young people in the age group 16 to 25, of which ten were male. They asked the interviewees about their experiences with the diagnosis, treatment and the support received for eating disorders.

The results indicated that young men suffering with eating disorders were ‘under-diagnosed, under-treated and under-researched’.

This has been contributed to the fact that many of the men were not aware of the symptoms related to the conditions, despite not having eaten for days, purging and experience an obsession with calorie counting.

The researchers, Dr Kate Hunt and Dr Ulla Raisanen said that their findings suggested that men experienced difficulty in recognising that they suffer with an eating disorder as it is predominantly classified as a problem experienced by females.

One male stated that he thought eating disorders were only experienced by ‘fragile teenage girls’, while another said he thought only girls got eating disorders. One man was told to ‘man up’ by his health care practitioner. Others said that the waiting time for them to obtain a referral to a specialist and misdiagnosis was a problem.

The researchers stated that general practitioners and teachers have an important role to play in recognising the disorder and changing the misconceptions about it.

Dr Raisanen said that men need the courage to discuss their problem with another person and make contact with a suitable health care professional for advice.

Leanne Thorndyke of Beat Eating Disorders Charity has said that the pressure of body image is affecting a huge portion of society and this includes males.

Eating disorders can be extremely complex as a wide range of factors, such as genetics and environmental conditions, may affect it. Cultural and social pressures also play a massive role in eating disorders.

Image credit: Tony Alter

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