New Study: Eating Disorders Are Gender Neutral

New study examines men and eating disorders

This week the BMJ Open Medical Journal published online the results of a new study, The role of gendered constructions of eating disorders in delayed help-seeking in men: a qualitative interview study. This research was conducted by Ulla Raisanen of the HERG Health Experiences Research Group at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK and Kate Hunt also of HERG and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

The objective of this study was: “To understand how young men recognise eating disorder (ED) symptoms and decide to seek help, and to examine their experiences of initial contacts with primary care.”

Study’s Parameters

  • The design of the study was a qualitative interview study
  • 39 young men and women were interviewed 
  • 10 participants were men
  • Ages of men ranged from 16 and 25
  • All participants had experience with eating disorders

Study’s observations and conclusions

Interestingly, but not necessarily surprising, some of the young men had assumed that an eating disorder was something only young girls and women got, so seeking help from their parents or medical professionals was delayed.  According to the press release issued by the BMJ Open:

None of the men was aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder, and friends, family, and teachers were also very slow to recognise the symptoms, frequently putting the changed behaviours down to personal choices.

It was only reaching a crisis point or being admitted as an emergency that triggered the realisation of what was happening to them, the men said.

They also delayed seeking help because they feared they wouldn’t be taken seriously by healthcare professionals, or didn’t know where to go for support.

And their experiences of the healthcare system were mixed. They said they often had to wait a long time for specialist referral and had sometimes been misdiagnosed, or, as in one case, told by the doctor “to man up.” They complained of insufficient information about eating disorders targeted specifically at men.

While it is a small study, it offers valuable insights and it can start the conversation.

ABC’s Healthy Living interview with Ron Saxen regarding his struggle with binge eating disorder (BED)

This interview with Ron Saxen took place in November 2011; however, he is very articulate and explains the earliest recollections of his eating disorder. He also wrote a book The Good Eater.


If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some final thoughts…

We are hopeful you will read a number of the related articles provided below. Many offer similar information about this study. At Cottonwood Tucson we do treat eating disorders; our aim is to uncover and resolve possible psychological issues related to disordered eating. Trauma and grief therapy can also help eating disorder patients to address longstanding emotional issues that support or trigger distorted perceptions about body shape and size.

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