It is a widespread view that only women have eating disorders. Unfortunately, this misconception has closed opportunities for men with these disorders to find help. A study published by the BMJ Open, a British online journal, suggests that the idea that women are the only ones who can have anorexia or bulimia makes it harder for men to find the support and assistance necessary to treat such disorders.
About 1 in 250 women in the UK have anorexia nervosa, one of the four known eating disorders, the other three being bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and an eating disorder not otherwise specified. 1 in every 2000 men are anorexic. Now, new estimates propose that one in every four cases of people with eating disorders are men.
However, the authors of the study suggest that because the symptoms of this disorder in men are seldom recognized, it might be more common than it was previously thought to be.
In a group of 39 people, 10 of which were male, between the ages of 16 and 25, patients had researchers interview them about their familiarity with eating disorders. From this, four topics were discussed: seeing symptoms and signs of an eating disorder, acknowledging the issue, seeking assistance for the issue, and contacting support services and healthcare.
Many of these men came to the understanding that they were experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder and that they needed help. Some of their behaviors included excessive exercise, compulsive weighing, starving for days, and purging. Some went to extremes and closed themselves off from their peers.
One of the boys that was interviewed claimed that eating disorders were only prevalent among “fragile teenage girls”, and another believed that it was only something women experienced. Because of this, they failed to see the symptoms and act on them. Their families and friends also failed to see them. Those who did catch the symptoms were afraid to seek help because they thought they would not be taken seriously.
It’s imperative that issues like this be brought to light because many of these patients could be in serious need of help, but they may not seek it for fear of not finding proper help.