Men tend to ignore signs of eating disorders
According to a British study, many men do not get the help they need for eating disorders (ED) because of the common perception that eating disorders are a “woman’s problem.”
The study found that “widespread cultural constructions of EDs as a ‘women’s illness’ mean that men may fail to recognize ED symptoms until disordered behaviors become entrenched and less tractable to intervention. Men also report that such perceptions can affect the reactions of their families and friends, as well as health and educational professionals.”
During the study of 39 individuals in the U.K. who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder, 10 of whom were men, the researchers found that all of the men took longer to realize that their experiences and behaviors were signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. The men in the study claimed that only after reaching a “crisis point” or being admitted as an emergency did they realize what was happening to them. They also claimed that they delayed getting help because they feared they “wouldn’t be taken seriously by healthcare professionals.”
“Men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed, undertreated and under-researched,” said the authors of the study.
In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Further, anorexia nervosa (a condition in which one attempts to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height) has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
According to Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, “Eating disorders don’t discriminate by gender. It’s important for everyone to recognize the signs and symptoms before serious, permanent damage occurs.”
The National Eating Disorders Association offers these helpful tips in preventing eating disorders in men:
- Be aware of sports that may foster weight restriction (e.g., gymnastics, track, swimming, wrestling, rowing). These can put males at risk for developing eating disorders. Male wrestlers, for example, present with a higher rate of eating disorders than the general male population.
- Never emphasize body size or shape as an indication of a young man’s worth or identity as a man
- Address the ways in which cultural attitudes regarding ideal male body shape, masculinity, and sexuality are shaped by the media
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