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The widespread belief that only women have eating disorders prevents men with these problems from getting the help and support they need, a small study shows.

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This is what ScienceDaily writes on its website in an article about a small study that has looked at men with eating disorders and the extent to which they seek help for their disorder. 


Increasing incidence of eating disorders in men

Estimates suggest that around 1 in 250 women and 1 in 2,000 men in the UK have an eating disorder, according to Science Daily.

They point out that these numbers can be misleading, and that the real number of men with eating disorders can be far higher.

The incidence of eating disorders is increasing among men, with some estimates suggesting that men now make up one in four cases. However, poor recognition of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in men is likely to mean that the true incidence may be higher, nevertheless, the authors say.

Psychiatrist Finn Skårderud has previously raised the issue and pointed out the importance of recognizing eating disorders as a problem that also affects boys. He also refers to a Norwegian study that describes an increase in the incidence of depression and eating disorders in boys.


Prejudices about eating disorders prevented men from seeking help

The researchers surveyed 39 young people aged 16 to 25 years about their experiences with eating disorders. Of these, 10 were men.

A key finding among these men was that they had long had a perception that eating disorders are a woman's problem, and especially a problem for young women. In the men in the study, this was precisely mentioned as one of the most important reasons why it took them so long to understand that they had an eating disorder and to seek help.

One young man, who described himself as "one of the guys", said he thought eating disorders only affected "fragile teenage girls", while another said he thought these disorders were "something girls got." 

None of the men were even aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder, and in addition, friends, family and teachers were also very slow in recognizing the symptoms that should have given cause for concern.


A crisis was necessary for the men to seek help for the eating disorder

Instead of the symptoms of the eating disorder being detected at an early stage, it was clear among the men in the study that it was only when the problems reached a critical level or that an emergency situation arose that led them to realize that they were suffering from an eating disorder. .

Another reason why it took longer for men to seek help was that they feared that they would not be taken seriously by health professionals, and that they did not know where to turn for help.

Men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed, undertreated and in addition, possible cases are not investigated to a sufficient degree, the authors write. 

Our findings suggest that men may have particular difficulty recognizing that they may have an eating disorder as a result of cultural prejudices that eating disorders are a female problem, they add.


Too few seek help for eating disorders

The concern among professionals is that boys are more reluctant to seek help, it is more taboo for them because eating disorders are often seen as a girl thing. It is embarrassing for the girls as well, but it is more legitimate for girls to strive for a thin body than for boys, Vigdis Wie Torsteinsson at the Regional Department of Eating Disorders at Ullevål University Hospital has previously stated to DinSide Helse.

At the same time, there is also reason to assume that girls also too little seek or receive help for this disorder:

Psychiatrist Finn Skårderud has previously told DinSide Helse that we in Norway estimate that about 30 percent of all people with anorexia and less than six percent of those who have bulimia are treated in the health care system. There is no estimate of how many men do not ask for help for their ailments. 



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