A new report in BMJ Open found that men are not getting the help they need to deal with eating disorders. The study found that around a quarter of those suffering with an ED were men but very few of these men actually received treatment or even understood they had a problem.
The research, which came from Oxford and Glasgow Universities, shows that most men see eating disorders as a female problem. This means men overlook their own negative eating habits. This problem is compounded by the fact that men have just as much pressure from society to conform to an ideal standard of beauty.
"Our findings suggest that men may experience particular problems in recognising that they may have an eating disorder as a result of the continuing cultural construction of eating disorders as uniquely or predominantly a female problem," said Dr Ulla Raisanen and Dr Kate Hunt.
This perception that eating disorders are a female issue does not just affect patents. Doctors and other healthcare workers may also believe that EDs can only occur in women. In the study, one man was even told by his doctor to “man up”. Other men reported long waiting times for help and misdiagnosis.
These kind of problems can cost lives and leave vulnerable people in very bad situations. To combat these problems, the researchers said that doctors, teachers and other front line workers have an important role in fighting eating disorders. They must challenge misconceptions about EDs or men will continue to be overlooked.
Men must also become better advocates for their own health. Many men fail to speak to their doctor which leaves problems overlooked and allows eating disorders to become worse.
The longer an eating disorder is allowed to grow, the harder it is to treat. This makes it doubly important to catch them early. This could help reduce the estimated £70 million cost of eating disorders on the NHS.
To learn more about eating disorders, Check out the Life Works Knowledge Centre.