Eating Disorders in Men Under Recognized

Ulla Räisänen Senior Researcher HERG Health Experiences Research Group Department of Primary Care Health Sciences University of Oxford Oxford OX1  Interview with
Ulla Räisänen
Senior Researcher
HERG Health Experiences Research Group
Department of Primary Care Health Sciences
University of Oxford Oxford OX1 2ET : What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We conducted a qualitative interview study exploring how young men (aged 16-25) recognise eating disorder symptoms and decide to seek help, and to examine their experiences of initial contacts with primary care in the UK.

Our data suggest that the widespread perception of eating disorders as uniquely or predominantly a female problem led to an initial failure by young men to recognise their behaviours as symptoms of an eating disorder. Many presented late in their illness trajectory when eating disorder behaviours and symptoms were entrenched, 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 men discussed the lack of gender-appropriate information and resources for men with eating disorders as an additional impediment to making sense of their experiences, and some felt that health and other professionals had been slow to recognise their symptoms because they were men. : Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: To date, there exists very little research into eating disorders in men. No previous work that we are aware of has explored men’s accounts of symptom recognition and help-seeking. In contrast to previous research among women with eating disorders which suggests that whilst recognising an eating disorder and seeking help can be a prolonged and complex issue, with issues around ambivalence towards recovery, our data shows that men may not even come to consider the possibility of having an eating disorder because of the inappropriateness of an eating disorder as a diagnosis for them as men. : What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: The data highlights perceived failure among professionals, patients themselves and the wider public to recognise eating disorders as something that also affect men. We hope to raise awareness and sensitivity among men, their friends and families as well as health care professionals to recognise such symptoms much earlier on for improved prognosis. : What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Eating disorders in men is a much neglected and under-research area that demands a great deal of future research and recognition. Particularly studies focusing solely on men’s experiences, across men of different ages, are paramount in order to understand men’s developing understandings of eating disorders across a longer illness trajectory.


The role of gendered constructions of eating disorders in delayed help-seeking in men: a qualitative interview study

Ulla Räisänen, Kate Hunt

BMJ Open 2014;4:e004342 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004342

Last Updated on April 9, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD