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Perception that only women affected by eating disorders delaying men getting help

The perception that only women are affected by eating disorders is delaying some men getting help, shows a recent UK study.

A total of 39 participants (29 female, 10 male) aged 16-25 years old took part in the qualitative interview study. All 39 featured had an experience of an eating disorder, with most participants having been diagnosed, but there two as yet undiagnosed cases. None of the participants were receiving inpatient treatment at the time of interview. In-depth interviews and semi-structured questions were used to explore each participant’s experience of having an eating disorder.

The results showed that the widespread perception of eating disorders as a predominantly female problem led to an initial failure by young men to recognise their behaviours as symptoms of an eating disorder.

Several male participants presented late in their illness, when eating disorder behaviours and symptoms were rooted, and some felt that opportunities to recognise their illness had been missed because of others’ lack of awareness of eating disorders in men. In addition, the male participants discussed the lack of gender-appropriate information and resources for men with eating disorders as an additional impediment to understanding their experiences, and some felt that health and other professionals had been slow to recognise their symptoms because of their gender.

The researchers advise that ‘in order to improve prognosis for men with eating disorders, early detection is imperative’ and that ‘primary care clinicians have a key role in recognising early symptoms’.

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