Men suffer from eating disorders, too. The problem is, they're not seeking help. A new study shows that men suffering from eating disorders frequently ignore their symptoms, and are slow to get treatment. Though fewer men than women suffer from eating disorders, the number of men with eating issues has been growing for years, and the assumption that anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders are women's issues is adding to the problem.
The study, conducted in the UK by researchers out of Oxford and the University of Glasgow, found that men were late to seek help and felt they didn't get assistance from friends who may have recognized similar issues in a woman. The men also said they didn't have access to non-gendered resources to help them understand their disorder.
Though more women than men have eating disorders, statistics likely underestimate how many men are suffering from them, probably because fewer men seek treatment for the condition, the researchers said. One participant in the study said he was given male-specific information about having an eating disorder. Guess what the men were told?
Basically the big one that they circled was, "Oh you won't be able to be sexually active" for men. And that was the biggest thing.
This was a small study: Twenty-nine women and ten men were interviewed. The men interviewed said they only figured out they had a diagnosable eating disorder once they ended up in crisis or had to seek medical attention. The researchers concluded that stigma surrounding the disease was a major factor in preventing men from getting treatment, writing:
Men with EDs are underdiagnosed, undertreated and under-researched. In particular, there is a lack of qualitative research on men's experiences of EDs and a continuing perception of EDs as a ‘female’ illness. Our findings suggest that men may experience particular problems in recognizing that they may have an ED as a result of the continuing cultural construction of EDs as uniquely or predominantly a female problem.